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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Audit critical of DOE program

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer

A state audit has recommended that the Department of Education's adult education program be turned over to the University of Hawai'i community college system because of a lack of efficiency and oversight.

The audit, released yesterday, said the DOE has failed to disburse federal money properly through a competitive grant process, has sloppy controls over key data and may be overpaying some staff.

The DOE has 11 adult and community schools throughout the state.

"Self-serving practices of adult education staff have taken precedence over its mission to serve the community," the audit said.

The audit said adult and community schools typically double-count students, resulting in misleading data. For example, if a student enrolls in three classes, that person is counted three times.

Because the classification and compensation of principals and vice-principals is partially determined by total average student enrollment, this counting method artificially inflates their pay.

Some community school administrative staff also receive part-time temporary teacher pay for teaching after work hours, but the DOE lacks safeguards to make sure that they are teaching only during off-hours, the audit said.

The audit also said that because the program lacks centralized oversight, many decisions are left to principals.

While that allows some flexibility, it also means that programs and tuition are inconsistent across the state. Some community schools offer free classes, while others charge for the same course. Some schools impose a book fee but no course fee. Classes with low enrollment have been allowed to continue without justification, the audit said.

The DOE responded in the report that a number of positive changes to the program have already taken place and that it is committed to correcting the issues identified in the report.

The DOE also said it now has tools in place to do program evaluations and has eliminated the practice of double-counting students.

The audit noted that UH community colleges perform a similar function and already have a program evaluation system in place.

The audit can be found online.

Reach Jennifer Hiller at jhiller@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.