BOE, Lingle must find path to a compromise
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It's a sad commentary that random drug testing is now a part of the cost of doing business. And no one likes the notion that random drug testing is needed in our classrooms.
But, teachers, however reluctantly, agreed to a contract last year that mandated such testing and the state Board of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association signed a memorandum of understanding over the testing.
Now, as the Department of Education moves forward toward implementing the plan, an unseemly fight between the BOE and Gov. Linda Lingle is playing out.
Hawai'i's taxpayers pour a staggering amount of money more than $2 billion into the DOE. In return, taxpayers expect that money to be well spent and our children our future leaders to be well educated.
The DOE proposed using Impact aid money to initially fund the drug testing because funding for testing was not included in the administration's supplemmental budget.
BOE Chairwoman Donna Ikeda countered that it is more important for the money to be used for classrooms and the governor should come up with funds for the drug testing. And the BOE last week voted not to fund the program.
The governor's office argues that the DOE has $30 million left from its operating budget. That money, however, is left over at the school level, according to Ikeda, and is money the schools want to use for purchases such as computers and textbooks.
Should the administration have included drug-test funding in the supplemental budget? Yes. The administration argues that some of the $30 million can be used for the $500,000 drug-test program. Likewise, $500,000 could have been specified in the supplemental budget.
Should the BOE, in retaliation, refuse to approve funding the program? No. If the board doesn't like the DOE proposal, the board should have ordered the department to find a way out by using non-classroom funds.
And, finally, should teachers' pay raises be held up over this dispute as Lingle suggested? Of course not. This is a management fight, not the teachers' fight.
Everyone seems to be now in their respective corners waiting for the next BOE meeting.
We suggest both sides agree to compromise on funding and do it quickly so they can move on to the more important task of providing a quality education for our youth.
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