Budget Cuts Force Schools to Cut Programs

Attiana Collins, Editor-In-Chief

While serving jury duty, Japanese language teacher Mark Kanetsuna was notified that the Japanese program was going to cease the following school year due to cuts in the Hawaii Department of Education’s budget.

“The students, like myself, were in total disbelief. I was totally unaware of what was happening and why. I think there could be better communication on these types of actions before decisions are final. Not that things would change much, but at least give us a heads up on what may be happening,” Mr. Kanetsuna said. “The Department of Education is not functioning efficiently.”

Budget cuts from over the past three years have forced schools to cut programs in order to maintain their budget. The combined total of the DOE’s budget cuts is $244.1 million, with $131.1 million being reduced from the 2011-2012 and the 2012-2013 fiscal years’ budget, DOE’s Communication Director Sandra Goya said.

With state and office budgets slashed, schools now have to cover services that were once provided by the state and complex area personnel. Dr. Elias Ali, principal, said some schools were forced to reduce hours for part-time personnel.

“Overall, the budget cuts over the years have forced the school to cut into programs,” Dr. Ali said. “We needed to eliminate the Japanese program, but will bring back one section next year. We also needed to make cuts in our supply budget for various school programs.”

School services, such as the bus and food services, are affected by the cuts also.

“Reductions to the Department of Education’s budget necessitated the implementation of revenue generating measures, such as bus fare and meal fee increases,” Goya said.

Raising the number of minutes in classroom instruction time has yet to be indicated as an open door for more serious budget cuts.

“The good news is that Hawaii’s economy is slowly recovering,” Goya said. “Thus, it would be premature to predict what effect increased instructional hours will have on the DOE’s budget.”

Although administration is determined to cut as less positions as possible, the potential for job losses “always exists,” Goya said.

“We have tried to shy away from cutting personnel,” Dr. Ali said, “but if cuts persist in the future, we may have to look at cutting personnel further. I am hopeful that this will not be necessary.”