Let’s Talk Fiscal Transparency

There have been several stories and one editorial about the Education Institute of Hawaii concerning EIH’s transparency study and their request for fiscal information (I am vice-president of EIH). Fiscal transparency. I have discussed it before in a previous column, but I thought this would be a good time since the study has made the news.

First, it is not an audit or an adequacy study. It is the first step necessary to understand how the DOE spends its money. EIH has contracted EduAnalytics LLC of New Freedom, PA to do the fiscal analysis and to create a tool that can be used by a school’s staff and community to know how much money a school is receiving in a variety of areas. The analysis dives deeply into the school’s revenue and expenditures as well as other arenas of the Department of Education’s budget. EduAnalytics has done work on school and charter districts in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Their work began in Georgia and includes Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado and Rhode Island. The largest school district they analyzed was New York City. Hawaii is the first school system that has resisted supplying the data needed for a complete review.

As a result, the Institute filed a Freedom of Information request to require the Department to provide the requested information. Representatives of EduAnalytics and the Department have been in communication over the months, but now EIH has hit a brick wall. The DOE has maintained that they have turned over all the data EIH requested, however, almost one billion dollars is not identified in detail. EIH is not saying that one billion dollars is fat or wasted money merely, that the necessary detail has not been provided. It is not good enough, for the DOE’s fiscal office to describe what the money is for but rather they need to show the detail of the ledger sheets.

For example, the DOE revenue files contain 1,287 rows of data and the expenditure files contain 4,276 rows of data. EduAnalytics expected 30,000 to 100,000 rows of data with the level of detail EIH is requesting. What is so frustrating is that the fiscal transparency study EIH has contracted will be very beneficial to the DOE and its schools and school community. It will provide a detailed excel profile of every school in the state. The information includes number of teachers, paraprofessionals, substitute teachers, administrators, instructional materials, computers systems, curriculum development, professional development, federal grants, etc. You get the general idea. The same detail would apply to the complexes and staff offices. The information would be in a format that will be understandable by staff, parents and the general public. No education gobblygook. For more information a report on funding for eight major cities can be found at https://bit.ly/2JLAGsj. If the reader wants more information on EduAnalytics’ projects, go to https://eduanalytics.com/projects.

It is the first step, EIH believes, necessary for the restructuring of schools. Our goal is to provide more money at the school level so school level personnel who are closes to the students can develop programs that support their students. EIH has a blueprint for restructuring schools in Superintendent Toguchi’s Project Ke Au Hou.

Keep your fingers crossed that EIH can complete this project successfully for the benefit of the DOE, the schools and the students they serve.

By Joan Lee Husted, HEA Board Member

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