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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, June 18, 2001

Spending for Felix needs a hard look

It is not only the right of the Legislature, it is its duty to investigate the efficacy of the many millions of dollars being spent on the Felix consent decree.

This responsibility is not to be confused with unworthy attempts by House members early this year to evade part of the state's obligation to bring its special education programs up to par. We warned at the time that these lawmakers were headed for a collision with federal Judge David Ezra that they couldn't win.

House members were arguing that they should cut Felix spending this year because of indications that some of the money was not getting to the children for whom services are required under the law. We argued at the time that lawmakers had no choice but to approve sufficient Felix funding to satisfy Ezra, and they could then adjust where and how the spending was targeted.

Driving the objections during the session, and now the impetus for the investigation set to begin this week, is a January report by the state auditor finding inconsistent cost reporting, faulty identification of children into special education and a lack of independent oversight.

As we say, lawmakers have little choice on how much they spend on the Felix decree, but they certainly are obliged to make sure the money is properly and effectively spent.

The bottom line here is that lawmakers must not confuse ineffective spending, which can be retargeted, with an excuse for backsliding on the obligation to catch up on an area long neglected, inexcusably, by the state.