Lowered Cuts for Public School Still Leaves $141 Million Budget Hole

Jan 22, 2021

The state department of education is facing steep cuts to make up for the state’s massive budget shortfall due to COVID-19. However, new federal dollars and a more optimistic revenue outlook, means the cuts will be smaller than expected.

Governor David Ige announced the cuts to the state department of education will be $123 million less than previously expected.

But that still leaves a 141 million dollar hole that could mean job losses for 700 teachers and 1000 other DOE employees.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee estimated the actual number of lost teachers could be much higher because Hawaii already has a teacher shortage.

“The first hits are going to be our youngest teachers. And that’s why we are so worried about the long term future because if these teachers lose their jobs they’re going to be looking for employment, they might go work in another field, they may leave Hawaii,” he said. 

“All of a sudden when we emerge from this recession and we’re not going to have a thousand positions on top of the ones we can’t fill now.”

DOE received $183 millionfrom the recent federal stimulus package to address learning loss and other expenses due to COVID-19.

The department’s plans for the money include funding one-to-one tutoring for an estimated 25,000 students in grades five through eight who are one or two years behind in math and reading.

After the governor’s announcement, the state board of education deferred taking action on how the new federal funds would be spent.

However board members had reservations about using the funds for tutoring.

“I'm very concerned about proposals for tutoring. If any of the money would be used for tutoring, the design has to be very thoughtfully developed around the kinds of tutors, capacity, how rural communities are able to address finding appropriate tutors,” Board member Lynn Fallon said.

“Initially, it was 25,000 who were suffering learning loss. If there are that many, I don't think we have capacity. Learning loss has been something that we have looked at for years as a public education system so it really needs to be a broader look at learning loss.” 

School superintendent Christina Kishimoto brought up research that said one-to-one tutoring is the most effective strategy to help students furthest behind.

“Students who are two or years behind need a high touch safe space to get that skill development in math and english so that they can continue at their grade level and catch up which requires more time,” Kishimoto said.

She says the 53 million dollars allocated for tutoring isn’t being used to backfill lost positions because it is a one time fund.

The BOE will wait until its next meeting to revisit allocating funds to allow schools to readjust their plans to the new smaller overall budget cut.