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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 5, 2006

DOE wrong to dun charters for dough

Charter schools are different, but they're also still public schools. And considering the pioneering and innovative spirit of most charters, any public dollars they get are well-deserved.

So why is the state Department of Education dunning the Charter School Administrative Office for $1.19 million?

That's how much the state said it overpaid the charters over the past two years, and now the DOE wants the money back.

Instead of praising the charters for filling an important need and producing standout schools such as Lanikai Elementary, the department has charged charter school officials with a bureaucratic crime.

They didn't follow the DIP.

The DIP is DOE jargon for Detailed Implementation Plan. The DOE says that the charters took extra money for increased enrollment the past two years that were not authorized by a DIP.

It's one thing to charge the charters for real fiduciary malfeasance. But this is not an example of that. Charter officials say changes were approved not by a DIP but by the Board of Education. The money was allotted by the DOE and spent by the charters on our keiki. The money would have been spent in a charter or a regular public school.

It's understandable the DOE would want to be accountable when it comes to funds. But the $1.19 million to the charters wasn't spent on luxury cars or lavish executive travel.

Charter schools tend to make do with what they get. And this year, they were woefully underfunded, receiving just $5,600 per pupil instead of the $6,500 that is the estimated overall DOE average.

In view of that, and keeping the common goal of educating Hawai'i's children in sight, the DOE should be willing to forgive the DIP-less debt, and see it not as an error but as money well spent.