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BOE Approves District’s Operating Budget

December 5, 2020, 7:30 AM HST
* Updated December 5, 7:09 AM
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The Board of Education (BOE) unanimously passed the Hawai‘i Department of Education’s 2021-23 operating budget, which will now go before Gov. David Ige and the state Department of Budget and Finance for consideration.

The budget was approved during a special meeting on Dec. 3. Deep cuts were approved as the COVID-19 pandemic has financially crippled the state. The operating budget is set to be reduced by 10% amounting to about $164.3 million for school years 2021-23.

“I have never seen such a bleak path ahead as I do now,” said BOE Chairwoman Catherine Payne, noting these financial deficiencies will persist for at least another four years.

The table below shows how much money is being reduced from various areas in the DOE.

Courtesy of Department of Education

Prior to the vote, Payne explained this was not the last of budget discussions. The numbers the district was working with were those provided by Ige and his staff. Budgets are also being developed in the House and the Senate.

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“We have a lot of public interest in this and there are concerns about the deep cuts,” Payne said. “We have been clear that we want the least amount of impact on the classroom as possible, but the deep cuts make it impossible. It’s very frustrating for all of us.”

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The DOE reported to the board that school-level impacts will be better understood once the 2021-22 fiscal year staffing financial plans are completed at the end of December. Ige will release his proposed executive budget for all state departments by Dec. 21. The Legislature will then use that executive budget as a starting point for the state budget when the 2021 legislative session opens in January.

Prior to the pandemic, Payne said the DOE and BOE had hoped to remediate the deficiencies caused by poverty. However, the health crisis that has persisted nearly all year dashed those hopes.

“The reality of what is happening in our schools is devastating,” Payne said. “Those who will suffer the most are the poorest children and their families.”

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Payne said the district must work with the budget they have. While there is hope that additional federal funding could assist the schools in the future, the chairwoman, said they can’t hold out for that as such funding won’t have the ability to provide services at all schools.

“There must be private sector grants that can help,” she said. “We give or deny resources according to our values. This is a terrible time for public education.”

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