Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent
Brian Hallett, Assistant Superintendent, Office of Fiscal Services
Fred Murphy, Principal, Mililani High School
Hunter Harris, Student Representative
Alison Kunishige, Executive Director
Kenyon Tam, Board Analyst
Regina Pascua, Executive Secretary
Lady Garrett, Secretary
Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent read a press release from Governor David Ige which stated, “Due to the pandemic and subsequent reductions in revenues we anticipated that the Department of Education, which is the largest general funded Department, would have to take a ten percent cut to its budget; however, with additional federal funds and more optimistic projections from the Council on Revenues we are able to reset the Department’s target reduction to 2.5 percent. This represents $123 million that can now be restored to classrooms so our students can be set to the path of prosperity and success.” Kishimoto stated that this means the request to the Board of Education (“Board”) will have to consider how it will now utilize a give back of $123 million of the base budget for next school year and part of the ongoing conversation on the entire budget needs.
Committee Chairperson Uemura expressed appreciation for the good news and asked if the Department of Education’s (“Department”) proposal could possibly change once it goes before the Legislature. Kishimoto replied that there is always a possibility that the recommendation will change.
II. Approval of Meeting Minutes of November 19, 2020
Committee Chairperson Uemura called for public testimony on this agenda item. No one provided oral testimony at this time.
Committee Chairperson Uemura asked Committee members to review the minutes of the Committee’s November 19, 2020 meeting.
Committee Member Takeno moved to approve the Committee’s meeting minutes of November 19, 2020. Committee Member Lynn Fallin seconded.
Committee Chairperson Uemura asked if there were any objections to motion. No Committee member raised objections, and the motion carried through unanimous consent from all members present (Committee Vice Chairperson Voss, Committee Members Cox, Fallin, Namauʻu, Payne, and Takeno).
ACTION: Motion to approve the Finance and Infrastructure Committee Meeting minutes of November 19, 2020 (Takeno/Fallin). The motion carried through unanimous consent from all members present.
III. Discussion Items
Cheri Nakamura, HE‘E Coalition, testified the HE‘E Coalition supports full funding for the public education system; however, given the crisis situation, the budget reductions appear to be inevitable. She reiterated that with budget reductions the following should be maintained: (1) prioritizing health and safety; and, (2) maintaining quality instruction in the classroom. She also strongly advocated for the $123 million that was restored to the Department’s budget to go towards restoring positions that were cut at the school level.
Erin Centeio, member of the public, testified that the proposed budget cuts are unprecedented, children should be kept at the forefront of decision-making, and that if the proposed cuts to physical education are allowed students will not develop skills to become physically active which can lead to detrimental effects to their academics and health.
Susan Pcola-Davis, member of the public, testified that a recent article from the Star-Advertiser reported that the Board approved a ten percent budget cut representing 102.5 full-time employees at the state office level and a $161.3 million statewide budget reduction. She stated that during the Finance and Infrastructure Committee meeting on December 3, 2020, there was no reason for the Board to discuss the budget since the Department already made the decision with Governor Ige and it was a done deal.
Jennifer Oana, member of the public, testified in support of continuing the existing budget for special education teachers and one to one educational assistants. She stated that cuts should come from other areas since special education students are the most at risk.
Committee Chairperson Uemura stated that written testimony is publicly posted on the Board’s website.
Committee Chairperson Uemura stated that the presentation provides information which was not available on the December 3, 2020, meeting relating to the impacts of the ten percent reduction because the deadline for schools to submit their academic and financial plans to the state office was December 31, 2020. He also stated that BOE IOU 571 was issued, which asked the Department to prepare data and information regarding the budget cut impacts at the complex area and school level to include the following information: (1) statewide survey on the impacts from schools and complex areas including a descriptions of the services most affected; (2) detailed breakdowns of staffing reductions by complex area and school; (3) impact statements of the respective reductions to programs and services at each complex area and school; and, (4) should not account for or consider any possible new federal funding. He expressed appreciation for the tremendous efforts of school principals and complex areas and all involved for putting together the important information because it is imperative the information provide details on the impacts of these budget cuts on services and programs. He stated that listing the impacts on page two of the memorandum does not satisfy the request to provide impact statements for each staffing reduction by program and school, but due to the way the system collects data the Department provided what was available.
Committee Chairperson Uemura explained that the committee can ascertain the information needed if the Department provides the following information: (1) staffing reduction in dollars at the school and complex areas and (2) total critical reduction impact on school level operations to determine the reductions as it relates to staffing and critical impacts which is essential for the discussion on the action item relating to federal funding.
Brian Hallett, Assistant Superintendent of the Office of Fiscal Services, stated the Department’s recommendation includes feedback from the school level on three types of the following reductions: (1) weighted student formula reduction of $95.3 million; (2) $24.5 million reduction to the special education services allocation program; and, (3) $2.1 billion reduction to the index complex area allocation. He also stated that the reductions are related to the Board’s reluctant approval of $164 million in budget reductions at the December 3, 2020 Committee and General Business Meetings. He stated that approximately $74 million of the Department’s $198 million budget reduction affects positions. He also stated that schools are working with their school community councils to develop their academic and financial plans.
Committee Chairperson Uemura stated that if the total impact of staffing reductions is $74 million out of $95.3 million, the difference would total $21.3 million in reductions which are non-staff related. Hallett replied that the Department is starting with $124 million in reductions to the weighted student formula and special education services. Committee Chairperson Uemura stated that the difference is actually $50 million in reductions related to non-critical impacts.
Committee Vice Chairperson Bruce Voss stated that these budget cuts cannot and will not happen. He asked how Governor Ige’s message to restore $123 million to the Department’s budget for the next biennium, subject to Council on Revenues in March and Legislature in April, will mitigate budget cuts at the school and complex area levels.
Hallett expressed appreciation to continue to dialogue with the Board about the budget situation as the situation is continuing to evolve until further federal funding comes to fruition.
Committee Vice Chairperson Voss stated that the Board repeatedly said that preservation at the school level should be a top priority and that special education funds cannot be cut because those students need to be protected. He also asked if budget cuts could be eliminated for EDN 100 (school level) as well as EDN 150 (special education) if funds are restored as Governor Ige is suggesting they could be. Hallett replied the restoration as suggested by Governor Ige will still be a little short of full restoration of the $131 million reduction for EDN 100 (school level) and EDN 150 (special education).
Committee Member Fallin asked if the $124 million is all general funds because it is subject to the Council on Revenues and Legislature. Hallett confirmed that the restoration from Governor Ige is coming from general funds. Committee Member Fallin asked if these funds are included with the Department’s base budget. Hallett replied the budget restorations will restore the base budget because it is recurring for this and any future biennium budgets.
Committee Member Fallin stated that the focus should be on how the Department will spend the $186 million and asked if anything listed in terms of impact might fall in the “direct to schools” category. Hallett explained that page two of the memorandum outlines impacts for the requested ten percent budget reductions.
Committee Vice Chairperson Voss asked to hear from Fred Murphy, Principal, Mililani High School about the difficult budget decisions facing those at the school level. Murphy commented that dealing with budget reductions has been emotional and hard for schools because they had to cut a substantial amount. He explained that during the process, the school reviewed budget reserves, cut support funds for athletics and music, reduced school-hosted events, reduced funds for travel and professional development, and decided not to proceed with any school improvement projects that are not already being covered by separate repair and maintenance funding, and eliminated funding for equipment and classroom supplies. Additionally, Murphy explained, that the school still needed to cut six general education teaching positions. He stated that Governor Ige’s announcement about the possibility of restoring funding is great news and that he cannot wait to share more information with those staff members who were affected, once these funds are indeed restored.
IV. Recommendation for Action
Corey Rosenlee, Hawaii State Teachers Association (“HSTA”), testified that HSTA strongly requested that the Board defer action on the Department’s plan for use of federal spending because many questions still need to be answered and that he does not understand the Department’s recommendation to use $63 million of stimulus funds to hire private tutors and summer school while at the same time firing over 1,000 teachers and 1,800 employees. Rosenlee asked the following questions: (1) will the Governor restore $100 million that has already been cut from the Department’s base budget? (2) how much of the $123 million will be used for the $83 million in unmet needs? (3) has the Governor changed his overall furlough plan which amounts to $120 million in labor savings? .
Colleen Hanabusa, member of the public, testified that HSTA is asking the Board to defer action due to the various issues that will clearly affect how the Department moves forward, including Governor Ige’s announcement and President Joe Biden’s 100-day plan to reopen education and $1.9 trilling stimulus bill. She explained that the annual federal spending bill has a maintenance of effort provision must be complied with in relation to what the Department is proposing.
Amanda Lacar, teacher, testified she is concerned with using money for private tutors as a part of public education. She expressed that she is hopeful the Board will consider deferring action on the agenda item and requested that qualified teachers remain in the classrooms.
Cheri Nakamura, HE‘E Coalition, testified that learning loss happened prior to COVID-19, but she noted that it is better to allocate more resources and support towards the classroom rather than through special programs in summer school and tutoring and that strategic resources can be put towards literacy support at elementary levels. She stated that the HE’E Coalition does not support spending $53 million on a one to one tutoring program or $9.7 million on summer learning because the Department does not have the infrastructure to implement a successful program.
Osa Tui, HSTA Vice President, testified that teachers are expected to juggle additional testing requirements as well as teach during the pandemic via online and in-person instruction. He expressed frustration because the Department is eliminating teachers while proposing funding for-profit companies to provide tutors for students.
Lynn Otaguro, member of the public, testified that schools need to be funded to provide an emphasis on consistent mask wearing, oversight over health and safety, and educating Department employees to make decisions that keep everyone safe. She also stated that budgets should reflect the Department’s mission by keeping resources in the schools.
Inga Park Okuna, member of the public, testified the proposed cuts are devastating to children that have already suffered so much during the pandemic and she urged the Board to spend money on qualified teachers instead of private tutors.
Mike Landes, member of the public, testified that budget cuts will have an alarming impact on schools because principals will need to make cuts to special education services, electives, educational assistants, Hawaiian immersion, and targeted intervention services for already struggling students. He stated that the best way to ensure continuity for keiki is to keep teachers teaching because tutoring is and will always be supplemental.
Susan Pcola-Davis, member of the public, testified that after reading an article she was directed to a link for a request for proposals posted by the Department on October 23, 2020, for tutoring services and that a contract was awarded on December 23, 2020, to the following companies: Ahead of the Class Education Services, University Instructors, Inspired Education LLC, Kahala Academic Center Incorporated, and One on One Learning. She stated that our education system cannot become broken because it is unfair and disrespectful to families and students.
Laverne Moore, member of the public, testified in opposition to using federal funds to hire private tutors and stated that summer learning is useless because students need the support now. She urged the Board to maintain public education services and not outsource to private tutoring.
Committee Chairperson Uemura stated that written testimonies have been uploaded to the Board’s website and the Department recommends the approval of the plan to use federal funds for the new COVID-19 relief package. He asked if the Department will continue to recommend the use of the federal funds in light of recent announcements from Governor Ige on the restoration of $123 million.
Hallett explained that the Department will be amending its recommendation (Attachment A of the memorandum) with a restoration of $53.9 million for the weighted student formula and special education services to meet current year shortfalls relating to unemployment insurance, school food services, workers compensation and conversion infrastructure, and new financial management system. He also explained the Department would allocate an additional $8 million to the one on one tutoring program for a total of $53 million.
Kishimoto clarified that comments relating to the tutoring vendor list involves a separate approach to support schools with existing Title I monies. She also stated that the Department does not have a request for proposal or finalized program at this time for the tutoring program because principals are still providing input on the design model.
Committee Chairperson Uemura recommended deferring action to give the public adequate time to comment on the revisions the Department is planning to make to its recommendations at a future meeting. He stated that providing the public an opportunity to submit comments on the Department’s revised recommendations is required by Board Policy..
Committee Member Cox stated that she is not overjoyed with tutoring unless the Department can make sure that the personnel needed at the school level, especially for special education services and health and safety, is taken care of first.
Committee Chairperson Uemura stated that the reason for the Committee’s deferral of this agenda item is to give the public time to review the Department’s revised recommendations and provide input so the Board can review all the cuts at the school level before looking at other options.
Committee Member Payne stated she would like to hear more about the federal requirements for spending funds relating to the maintenance of effort provision as mentioned with the HSTA testimony provided and that there may be a violation of this requirement.
Committee Chairperson Uemura stated that he has included Committee Member Payne’s request in his notes for follow-up with the Department.
Committee Member Fallin expressed concern regarding the proposal for tutoring and noted that the design needs to be thoughtfully developed with the various types of tutoring. She stated that she would like answers on how rural communities will be addressed and that more information is needed relating to the impact of summer school. Fallin stated that the Department should have a much more focused summer school for those students who need credits to graduate or be promoted to the next grade level.
Committee Chairperson Payne stated that she would like a portion of her questions addressed by the Department.
Committee Chairperson Uemura stated he is reluctant to allow this and would like to have conversations offline regarding this matter. Committee Chairperson Uemura deferred action on this agenda item to a future Committee meeting.
V. Late Public Testimony on Board Agenda Items
Committee Chairperson Uemura called for public testimony from any individuals who did not have an opportunity to testify on earlier agenda items. No one provided oral testimony at this time.
Committee members received written testimony before the meeting. The following is a listing of the people who submitted written testimony before the meeting.
|Carol Esquibel||IV.A. Committee Action on Department of Education’s Plan for Use of Federal Funds in the New COVID-19 Relief Package and Annual Spending Bill|
|Odin Hill||IV.A. Committee Action on Department of Education’s Plan for Use of Federal Funds in the New COVID-19 Relief Package and Annual Spending Bill|
|Tai Baird||IV.A. Committee Action on Department of Education’s Plan for Use of Federal Funds in the New COVID-19 Relief Package and Annual Spending Bill|
|John Van Ornum|
|Jennifer Luke Payne|
|Susan Lynn Erickson|
|Cheri Nakamura||HEʻE Coalition||III.A. Presentation on Impact of 2021-2023 Fiscal Biennium Budget Cuts on School and Complex Area Levels & IV.A. Committee Action on Department of Education’s Plan for Use of Federal Funds in the New COVID-19 Relief Package and Annual Federal Spending Bill|
|Martha Guinan & Ivalee Sinclair||Special Education Advisory Council|
|HSTA on behalf of members who wish to remain anonymous|
|Paula Adams||Hawaii Afterschool Alliance|
|Alfred Torres, Jr.|
|Hawaii Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance|
|Kathleen Algire||Hawaii Children Action Network Speak|
|Senator Bennette Misalucha||Senate District 16|
|Shelley Fey||V.B. Presentation on impact of 2021-2023 fiscal biennium budget cuts on School and Complex Area levels|
|Piper Selden||IV.A. Committee Action on Department of Educationʻs Plan for Use of Federal Funds in the New COVID-19 Relief Package and Annual Federal Spending Bill|
|Julie Tanigawa||IV.A. Committee Action on Department of Education’s Plan for Use of Federal Funds in the New COVID-19 Relief Package and Annual Federal Spending Bill|
Committee Chairperson Uemura adjourned the meeting at 1:14 p.m.