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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 30, 2006

Public schools get a welcome boost

State lawmakers deserve some credit for making a clear statement about our priorities that our children deserve education in decent surroundings.

Those concerned about the physical condition of our public schools can celebrate a decision by House and Senate budget negotiators to carve out an additional $160 million for classroom renovations and $50 million for other school repairs in the coming fiscal year.

Gov. Linda Lingle had requested far less, arguing that enough money already has been appropriated and is stuck in the bureaucratic pipeline.

While that may be partially true, the state Department of Education has recently been given increased autonomy in budgetary matters, which should smooth out some of the kinks.

Clearly the backlog of desperately needed improvements is so large that all of the funds lawmakers have set aside can be put to good use.

It's better to try to whittle that backlog, now that there's a state surplus, than to let projects languish on a wish list, for "next time." There might not be a "next time" anytime soon. Continuing to defer maintenance will only make the problem more difficult and expensive to fix down the road.

State Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai'i Kai), countered that the DOE is not being held accountable.

He's got a point. The Legislature has done its part, and now the buck stops at the door of school officials. It's their duty to see that the funds find their way to the campuses of public schools, with maximum efficiency.

Our students must not be left waiting. They deserve a clean and safe environment, where they can do their best work.