PDK/Hawaii President's Report
May 25, 2007
During this past year, PDK's Hawaii chapter has dealt with some challenging issues. As the principal of a public charter school in Hawaii (my day job), my perspective is often tinted by issues facing charter schools in our state. My vision is also clouded by the burdens that NCLB has placed on all public schools. With encouragement from our chapter leadership, I have agreed to continue for another year as the Hawaii chapter president. I will gladly relent to anyone desiring the position for the next year. I have agreed to continue because there is so much work that still needs to be done. Charter schools in Hawaii still face monumental challenges. NCLB continues to devour hope and plague many good public schools with judgments based on inappropriate collections of questionable data.
Charter schools in our state are still treated like the illegitimate, stepchild of the State Department of Education. We continue to fight for our place at the table. As we anxiously await the Governor's signature on an Act many are calling our Emancipation Proclamation, the State Board of Education is calling the newly crafted legislation “unconstitutional.” The new law will take away virtually all of their power to harass and undermine charter schools. A new charter authorizing board will have the power to grant charters, approve changes to chartering documents and to hire the Executive Director of the Charter Schools Administrative Office. The BOE's power over charter schools will be limited primarily to handling appeals. I will continue to bring these issues to light as your chapter president.
The debate concerning the reauthorization of NCLB continues to grow louder and may soon move into a more open, public arena. Ammunition is being collected by both sides. Unfortunately, in Hawaii, we are developing ammunition that will be used to support the continuation of the current direction of NCLB. Many have called the law an “under funded mandate.” Unfortunately, the State BOE and DOE have undermined this argument for Hawaii. The State Department of Budget and Finance is mandated by the General Appropriations Act of 2005 to complete a comprehensive assessment each year analyzing the adequacy of federal funding for the DOE's federal mandate of meeting and maintaining compliance with NCLB. I was shocked to read in the report that the DOE has maintained a “pattern of spending that averages to about 52% of funds available each year. As a result, there is a sizeable carryover balance at the end of each year prior to lapses ($42 million in FY 03, $50 million in FY 04, $60.6 million in FY 05, and $53.8 million in FY 06.” The DOE is not spending nearly half of the money sent to us for implementing NCLB. How can we possibly make the “under funded mandate” argument when we aren't sending the money to our public schools? As chapter president, I will continue to bring such evidence to the debate. I have been forced to educate myself on the fiscal realities of educational funding in Hawaii to lobby for fair funding for charter schools. As PDK Hawaii chapter president, I have a new challenge to lobby for fair funding for all of our public schools.
President John Thatcher