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Hawai‘i Schools Facing Smaller Budget Cut Than Previously Projected

January 22, 2021, 11:11 AM HST
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HSTA President Corey Rosenlee

Federal funds recently allocated to the Department of Education (DOE) will allow for a budget reduction of 2.5% rather than the 10% cut that was initially projected.

Gov. David Ige announced the change in cuts on Thursday.

“This represents about $123 million dollars that we can now restore to our public-school classrooms so our students can be set on the path to prosperity and success,” Ige said.

In December, DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto explained the district was tasked with identifying budget reductions of at least 10% for the next two years, on top of an already $100.2 million reduction to the base budget sustained this school year, for a total budget reduction of more than $264 million in each school year beginning July 1.

In a statement from Kishimoto Thursday, she said this is an extremely challenging time for the state with a lot of uncertainty and unknowns.

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“I want to sincerely thank Gov. Ige and the Department of Budget and Finance for their continued support and willingness to work collaboratively with the Department to prioritize public education,” she stated. “We know there are competing priorities and tough decisions to be made, and we look forward to (the) continued conversation on how we best support our students and protect public education.”

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As the state moves through the legislative process, Kishimoto added, the DOE is committed to restoring funding closest to the students and schools and finding solutions to other shortfall areas to stabilize school operations.

While the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association welcomed Ige’s news, HSTA President Corey Rosenlee wanted to clarify that even with the adjusted budget reduction, nearly 700 teachers are still at risk of losing their jobs.

Even after this additional federal funding, Rosenlee told reporters over Zoom Thursday that schools are still looking at $140 million in cuts, “…which is going to mean a lot of programs are going to be cut, teachers are going to lose their jobs.”

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“This is a good first step, but there’s still a lot more that needs to be done,” he said.

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