Gov. David Ige’s supplemental budget request to the Hawaii Legislature for next fiscal year includes an additional $24 million in state Department of Education operating funds and an extra $150 million for public school improvement projects, including the construction of an elementary school on Oahu.

Tucked within the request is a modest $2 million increase to the weighted student formula, the method that determines per-pupil-funding. But it proposes funding for other areas previously overlooked, such as $4.1 million in workers’ compensation benefits for injured DOE employees, students and volunteers.

Other notable education-related items in Ige’s supplemental budget request include $1 million to expand Early College learning programs in the public schools, $2.8 million to broaden school-based health services under the Hawaii Keiki program and $3.1 million to purchase equipment for newly constructed school facilities.

“We can provide opportunities for the future by investing in our people and ensuring that the appropriate educational programs and training are available,” the governor’s budget brief stated.

DOE Dept of Education subcommittee meeting.
The Board of Education listens to a presentation by DOE’s budget and finance personnel. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The request for the next fiscal year, which runs from July 2018 through June 2019 — was submitted to the Legislature ahead of its session starting Jan. 17. The governor’s education-specific requests are part of an overall spending request that includes $85.5 million in operating appropriations and $1.5 billion in capital improvement projects statewide.

The Legislature will make its own adjustments and modifications before hammering out a draft for supplemental education funding in the new fiscal year.

Hawaii’s budget is set on a biennial basis. The 2017-19 budget was approved by the Legislature in May 2017. Executive supplemental budget requests are considered by the Legislature in even-numbered years.

DOE’s operating budget for the current fiscal year is $1.9 billion, which is comprised of $1.6 billion in state appropriations and the rest from federal, trust and special funding.

The department allocates this funding into categories pertaining to direct school support via the weighted student formula, special education services, school utilities, administrative and personnel support costs, pre-K learning and others.

The DOE’s own supplemental budget request for Fiscal Year 2019 — approved by the Board of Education in October — sought an additional $69.5 million in operating funds, not including capital improvement projects.

The department requested an additional $42 million for direct school support spending alone, including $26.6 million for the weighted student formula, mainly to account for a proposed $10 million hike in English language learner assistance.

Among other DOE requests passed over by the governor was funding just shy of $24,000 for employee appreciation incentives and an additional $1 million for competitive “innovation grants” to schools.

Ige agreed to request $293,000 to fund three permanent positions in a Community Engagement Office within DOE to foster more effective partnerships between the DOE and the public, as well as an additional $400,000 for a tuition assistance program at the University of Hawaii geared toward local aspiring teachers who don’t have the necessary credentials.

Education Chair Senator Michelle Kidani during hearings. 16 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Hawaii Senate Education Chair Michelle Kidani is a key proponent of the “Grow Our Own Teachers” initiative. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The “Grow Our Own Teachers” initiative is a partnership between DOE and UH that will welcome its first cohort of students this year following an initial funding stream backed by Senate Education Chair Michelle Kidani. The program tries to address a statewide teacher shortage by covering tuition for long-term substitutes and educational assistants to get them trained in high-need instruction areas like English, math and science.

Ige’s supplemental budget request also includes $114,000 to fund permanent positions for the state’s Farm to School initiative, which aims to bring locally grown food into the school cafeterias while supporting local agriculture, $1.3 million for a per pupil funding adjustment for charter schools and additional $749,893 for newly authorized charter school DreamHouse ‘Ewa Beach, slated to open in August for 100 sixth-graders, to start.

On the capital improvements side, Ige has proposed $90 million for projects to fix public school facilities and $60 million toward construction of the proposed Pohukaina Elementary School. Construction for the school is set to begin in 2019 in the booming condo development area of Kakaako. The “vertical” school plans to serve 750 K-6 students in a mixed-use space within an affordable housing complex.

On the higher education side, the governor’s supplemental budget request also calls for a $6.7 million increase in UH’s operating expenses and $120 million hike in UH capital projects.

Kidani told Civil Beat her priorities this upcoming session are to continue to push for additional funding for “Grow our Own Teachers” to extend it past its pilot period, support additional Early College so it can expand into the elementary school level and consider ways to provide community housing for new teachers.

“I do think there will be more of a focus on education (by the Legislature this year) because we have a new superintendent, and she has a new staff,” Kidani said.

Join the conversation in-person at Civil Beat’s upcoming Civil Cafe event, “Legislative Preview 2018,” on Jan. 11 at noon at the Capitol. For more information, visit our events page.

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