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Lawmakers propose new study to help effectively fund Hawaii public schools

What is an adequacy study and how can it help?

Many agree Hawaii’s public schools need more funding, but is there a way to ensure money is spent efficiently and effectively?

It’s an idea Hawaii lawmakers will consider this legislative session.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association is collaborating with lawmakers on a proposal that would explore how best to support public education in the state of Hawaii, using recommendations supported by top educational research.

Bills will be introduced in the Senate and House that call for what’s known as an educational funding adequacy study. Contracted experts would evaluate the adequacy of school funding in Hawaii, using an evidence-based model to analyze how resources are allocated.

“There are methods that have been set up in order to make sure that schools have enough funding to provide a quality education,” said HSTA president Corey Rosenlee. “Our hope is the legislature will pass the funding in order to pursue the study so that by next session, we can go into the legislature with an exact amount of how underfunded Hawaii schools actually are.”

Related Story: Hawaii lawmakers address education on opening day of 2019 legislative session

An adequacy study evaluates resources, such as staffing, equipment, professional development and time for student-learning interventions, and uses educational research to determine which areas need more support.

Experts would take into account specific factors, such as class size, school size and schools with a diverse student population—special needs, English language learners and students with low socioeconomic status, to name a few—and tailor their recommendations accordingly, along with a cost estimate for the additional support.

The bills also ask experts to determine a salary that could attract and retain certified teachers in Hawaii using recently gathered data that compares Hawaii teacher salaries with those of teachers in high-cost-of-living districts across the country.

“To move forward with advocating for public school funding, we need to show more evidence to others about where it’s needed based on educational research,” said HSTA Government Relations Specialist Mitzie Higa. “This will help legislators know where to allocate the funding once the study is complete.”

Related Story: Priorities for HSTA's Government Relations Committee in 2019

In addition to developing the legislation, HSTA’s Lobbying Team is working to inform lawmakers and fellow advocates on the importance of an adequacy study and the nuances of how it can help Hawaii’s public schools.

“Often we hear the argument that something that’s worked on the mainland doesn’t work in Hawaii,” Higa said, “but in this case, that isn’t so. There have been different, smaller case studies done in Hawaii with elementary, middle and high schools that found the more schools aligned with the recommendations of the evidence-based model, the higher their rates of growth in student learning were.”

HSTA will continue to update its members and the public on the progression of these bills through the Hawaii State Legislature.

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