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Budget Cuts Hit Education Again

While school furlough days ended last year, education budget woes are not over. The Department of Education (DOE) is facing a $32.8 million budget reduction over the next two fiscal years. As part of the cuts, the DOE made adjustments to the weighted student formula, or per-pupil funding, as well as redefined the student enrollment required to be considered a small school. Sixty-four campuses around the state, including all schools on Molokai, will lose money as a result of the small school redefinition, according to DOE Budget Specialist Brian Hallett.

For this coming school year, elementary schools with 300 or fewer students enrolled will be considered small, reduced from 500 last year. For middle schools, the enrollment cutoff will drop from 600 to 450, and at high schools, 750 or fewer students down from 1,000, according to the DOE.

“[The changes] affect every school but because we happen to be a small school, the impact is greater because of the weighted formula,” said Molokai High School Principal, Stan Hao.

However, Hao said as of now, he doesn’t think the budget cuts will affect class offerings or result in a loss of personnel.

“It’s hard to make do with less,” said Hao, adding that the administration is still in the process of finalizing this year’s budget.

Small schools could to lose from $17,000 to $300,000 in the upcoming school year, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser. Hallett said that all of that money will not be lost, however, as some of it will be redistributed through the weighted student formula. The weighted student formula, he added, is allocated by student characteristics – schools with higher enrollment of poverty-level or special needs students, for example, are allocated more money. 

The Committee of Weights – tasked with examining the weighted student formula every year – recommended the changes in August of last year, and the Board of Education approved them in September. Many school principals are still working through their budgets for this coming school year, and are unsure how the small school adjustments will affect the classroom.

Other Molokai school principals were not available for comment.

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