Funding for Lahainaluna boarding program at risk
LAHAINA — With the Hawaii Legislature focused on ending Furlough Fridays, funding for the Lahainaluna High School Boarding Department is in jeopardy.
Central Maui Sen. Shan S. Tsutsui, vice-chair of the Committee on Ways and Means, told the Lahaina News, “At this point, every state-funded program is under review, including the LHS boarding program.
“I have, and will continue to support this program. However, what Ways and Means is considering is agreeing to a proposal provided by the DOE (Department of Education). This proposal would transfer funding to the student weighted formula to eliminate the current furlough situation.”
West Maui Sen. Roz Baker explained the situation in an e-mail to Lahainaluna High School officials.
“Just heard that Ways and Means Committee (WAM) is considering taking the cuts offered up by the DOE, and the LHS boarding program is included. The Board of Education had voted to continue funding the boarding program,” Baker wrote.
“However, the original larger list of cuts from DOE included it, and it seems that WAM is taking the larger cuts, although ultimately rolling some of the dollars from those cuts back into the weighted student formula. But that still means no line item funding for the boarding program. So if the proposed SD1 (budget bill) goes through — they’ll have a hearing on it next week — then the boarding program won’t be funded in the Senate
Sen. Tsutsui said the Senate funding panel has received testimony from Boarding Department supporters.
“We’ve already received many e-mails, and I think if this program is necessary, they should be working with the DOE, as they set their program priorities,” he noted.
With Maui Board of Education (BOE) member Mary Cochran vocally supporting the LHS Boarding Department, the board affirmed funding for the program on three different occasions.
“Somehow the DOE sent over a more inclusive list — read that larger dollar value — of items they considered non-core and could be deleted or rolled into the weighted student formula,” Sen. Baker explained.
“I’m of the opinion that if the money is rolled into the weighted student formula, that LHS will not have money for the boarding program. I’ve also heard some folks say that if a school wants a particular program, then they should fund it out of whatever allotment they get. That is shortsighted and lacks an understanding of the requirements of various student programs,” she continued.
“LHS’ boarding program provides opportunities for students to grow and mature. It is an outstanding learning experience. It adds value to the school and the student body. Even in difficult financial times, it deserves to be funded.”
Last week, after Baker informed Cochran of the news, she had the Department of Education send a letter to Ways and Means Chair Donna Kim stating that the Board of Education did not approve elimination of the Lahainaluna boarding program.
“How and why WAM was operating out of an outdated spreadsheet submitted by the DOE beats me,” Cochran told the Lahaina News.
“Pressure should be brought to bear on Senators Kim and Tsutsui, chair and vice-chair of WAM. If anything, they should eliminate programs that are duplicative of state and federal services such as the DOE’s Civil Rights Office! I’ve been pushing for that for years, and now is the time to do it!”
Cochran said she’ll champion the LHS Boarding Department until the end of the legislative session.
“I am so tired of the political spin that education is a priority, because sure as heck their actions belie their words, except for Roz and McKelvey. And the cutters are just looking to slash and burn without taking into account whether programs and/or services directly impact on student learning! They don’t have a clue as to what exactly goes on at the school level.”
West Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey was unavailable for comment at press time.
Baker believes the issue will boil down to the budget conference between the Senate and House. She said it’s important that funds are allocated specifically for the Boarding Department.
“If the Senate takes something out and the House doesn’t agree, then it is status quo. The difficult part is, unless there is something affirming that the money is to be spent on the boarding program for Lahainaluna, the Senate and House could restore funds for DOE, and LHS boarding still could not get funding. We’re going to have to work all angles,” Baker commented.
She recommends sending e-mails to the Maui delegation in the Senate and House, as well as WAM and House Finance Committee members. Contact information is available at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.
Letters should ask lawmakers to restore funding for the boarding program at Lahainaluna High School, along with a short explanation of why the program is important.
In her e-mail to Lahainaluna supporters, Baker wrote, “I think it is time to rev up the LHS alumni and friends network to let Ways and Means Committee and all senators know that the LHS boarding program is a very valuable one for students and deserves to be funded, not thrown in to the weighted student formula pot.”