Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Schools Need More Funding

This past week, "No Child Left Behind" was officially replaced by the "Every Student Succeeds Act." This is President Obama's legacy to education which includes a commitment to ensure that students are college and career ready when they graduate, a focus on pre-kindergarten and innovative programs, and providing wrap-around services for 'vulnerable' communities. ESSA still requires annual testing for students in specified grade levels, but teacher evaluations will not be tied to those scores.
"With this bill, we affirm that fundamentally American ideal - that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make of their lives what they will."  President Barack Obama

I look forward to seeing if anything will change in our Department and the State as a result of "Every Student Succeeds Act." As a school principal and an advocate for early childhood education, I hope we can make meaningful changes that positively influence schools.

Recently, the Hawaii State Teachers Union proposed increasing the General Excise Tax by 1% in order to more adequately fund education in Hawaii. It appears that the proposal to increase the GET faces difficult hurdles at the Legislature in the coming session. As a public school educator for over 40 years, I implore our elected officials to find ways to increase the pot for public education in Hawaii.

Every year, principals review the funds allocated to their school and make decisions on how to address the needs of their students. When schools are expected to do more with less, our students, teachers, and the school community suffers. In recent years, schools have had to implement initiatives such as the Common Core State Standards, Response to Intervention, and Positive Behavior Intervention Supports.  Additionally, schools are preparing students with necessary 21st century skills such as STEM, project-based learning, and computer science. All of these require additional staff, professional development, and funding for resources to support teachers and students. As schools juggle new initiatives while preparing students to be college and career ready, the DOE is dealing with higher costs for electricity, student transportation, and special education services. Basically, the amount of funding has not increased to keep up with everything the public expects of schools.

If increasing the GET to benefit public education is not feasible, then policy makers need to discuss ways to increase the pot so that everyone in the State benefits. If we want our students to be competitive in this new world, we need to come up with a plan to ensure that our schools are adequately funded. Let's get that conversation started and come up with solutions. 

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