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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cost of summer school rising

Advertiser Staff

Beginning next year Hawai'i public school parents will have to shell out $30 more for their kids to take summer school courses.

Under a measure approved this week by the state Board of Education, students will pay $190 per class in summer 2011, rather than the current $160.

The increase is the first in more than eight years, but still doesn't fully cover the cost of summer school, officials said. A recent state Department of Education study found that the average cost per student was about $220, including supplies and summer salaries for teachers.

Officials say the tuition increase was necessary because many summer school programs have been operating at a deficit for years. That has led some schools to cancel summer programs and affected others' ability to pay qualified teachers and directors adequately. Recruitment has suffered as a result.

"The tuition of summer school has been at $160 since early 2000. We really haven't been keeping up with the real cost," said Daniel Hamada, the DOE's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Summer school programs often compete with teachers' desire to work on credits toward advanced degrees at universities, take workshops or plan lessons, Hamada said.

"Summer is shorter. When we're talking about seven weeks of vacation and six of them are going to be for summer school, you're asking them to commit a huge percentage of their time," Hamada said. "It's their time to rest and catch up on credits, so we have to respect that."

Donna Shiroma, DOE's state coordinator for summer schools, said the increase should allow for summer school programs to be self-sustaining.

"We have been noticing over the past few years that more and more schools are ending summer in the red," Shiroma said.

Shiroma said principals have also reported not wanting to provide summer schools because they often have to take money from their budgets for the regular school year.

"We've had principals call up and say, you know what, we can't afford it," Shiroma said.

Summer school has been on the decline since 2004, when more than 75 schools opened their campuses over the break. At last count, about 45 campuses were providing traditional summer school to students. Officials say that schools mainly high schools have switched to alternative options for students to make up missed course credits, including online classes and afterschool and night classes known as "twilight school."