No more taxes to stop furloughs

By Jamie Story

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is calling out Kanu Hawaii, a self-branded community organization, on its petition entreating the state to preserve children’s education. Among its demands are raiding the Hurricane Fund, raiding the Rainy Day Fund, and raising taxes, all of which would come at the detriment of all Hawaii citizens.

As hundreds are expected to gather at the State Capitol to protest furlough Fridays, Grassroot Institute President Jamie Story observes, “Of the $2.4 billion spent on public education in Hawaii, as much as two-thirds is consumed by the Department of Education (DOE)’s bloated bureaucracy. Our DOE ‘Trim the Fat’ contest held earlier this year identified hundreds of millions in potential savings–resources that could erase the need for furloughs without tax increases or raiding emergency funds.”

While all state departments have been asked to reduce expenditures in light of a budget shortfall exceeding $1 billion, few have been gifted with a ballooning operating budget as large as that of the Department of Education (DOE).

  • From FY 99-00 to FY 08-09, the DOE’s budget grew from $972 million to $2.4 billion.
  • Despite the tremendous increase in funds, student test scores lag behind the national average. This year, 35 percent of Hawaii eighth-graders scored below basic proficiency in mathematics on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Fourth-graders also lagged behind the national average, with 23 percent scoring below basic proficiency.
  • Taking into account the increase in funding and decrease in student enrollment, the Grassroot Institute finds that the DOE spends approximately $14,000 per pupil annually, an amount exceeding the tuition at most private schools in the state.

While Hawaii taxpayers have kept the DOE well-fed with an expanding budget for over a decade, it is clear that students continue to come away with less.

Story adds, “Unfortunately, the DOE did not implement any waste-cutting practices proposed by their own employees and citizens to avoid furloughs. There is no time more urgent than now for the DOE to make public all of its finances so taxpayers can see where their money is going.”

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is an independent, non-partisan think tank based in Honolulu. The mission of the Grassroot Institute is to promote individual liberty, free market economic principles and limited, more accountable government.

Jamie Story is a former president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

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