Editorial | Island Voices Column: Empowering schools requires access to financial data By Ray LHeureux and Joan Husted April 16, 2019 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM Christina Kishimoto. We read with great interest the recent story that highlighted the position of Christina Kishimoto, superintendent of the Department of Education (DOE), about Honolulu Magazine’s ranking of Hawaii public schools as listed in the annual education issue (“Superintendent denounces ‘double standard’ in school rankings by Honolulu Magazine,” Star-Advertiser, April 5). Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. We read with great interest the recent story that highlighted the position of Christina Kishimoto, superintendent of the Department of Education (DOE), about Honolulu Magazine’s ranking of Hawaii public schools as listed in the annual education issue (“Superintendent denounces ‘double standard’ in school rankings by Honolulu Magazine,” Star-Advertiser, April 5). She defended Hawaii public schools and bristled at the ranking of public versus private schools, contending that there was no contextual data taken into consideration when ranking some public schools, especially those with the grade of F. We could not agree more with her statement. Effective decision-making requires knowing and analyzing not just topical facts. For example, when comparing student performance at two schools, it is necessary also to compare related contextual facts. Those might include the percentage of students living in poverty in each school, the number of special education students or the cost-of-living differences. Currently, the DOE does not have a financial model that can merge topical data and contextual facts into a decision-making format. The Education Institute of Hawaii (EIH) and its partner, EduAnalytics, has explained and offered to fund a school finance model to provide DOE fiscal transparency. This model would give all stakeholder groups — legislators, principals, parents, teachers, etc. — a better idea on how each of Hawaii’s 257 public schools are financed at the classroom level. EIH has worked for the last three years to collate actionable intelligence (data) into an easy-to-understand report of all the data that influences school finance. This is done through a QCBI (Quality Control Business Intelligence) model that can be broken down school-by-school and contains all the contextual facts that would be pertinent to that particular school’s funding. In fact, contextual data, school-by-school, is just one method of reporting that is part of EIH’s fiscal transparency study of the DOE budget. To date, we have loaded roughly 300,000 lines of data into the model. And we are not done. EIH’s intent is to assist the DOE and help the superintendent find ways to afford the strategic plan she has publicly stated is unaffordable with the current budget. We have attempted, and formally asked, the DOE to provide the public financial data; that request was not fully answered. We are now caught in the cumbersome Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process, through 92F requests, and are working with the Office of Information Practice to obtain the general ledger data we need to complete the work. Hawaii’s FOIA process is limited to one-way communication using form submittals that restrict communication. It would be more effective and efficient if the DOE staff simply picked up the phone and talked to the requestor to clarify the request in a two-way communication. EIH is unsure why the DOE is hesitant to participate in the financial study or willing to share public information. For the past three years the DOE has stated it is too busy to provide the information EIH requested, but we are skeptical. Taking the time now to provide the general ledger data will make the DOE less busy in the future. Perhaps it’s the fear of the unknown or a knee-jerk reaction to accept ideas from outsiders. The bottom line: We need to determine if the DOE is adequately funded. We don’t know. We need to make the focus of school finance a school-based process, and it must occur at the classroom level with the “child in the seat” as the center of gravity. The governor, Board of Education chairperson and the superintendent are all aligned when they speak about school empowerment — but we cannot achieve school empowerment without principals having access to topical and contextual facts regarding the funding for their specific schools. Ray L’Heureux is chairman/president of the Education Institute of Hawaii; Joan Husted is vice president. Previous Story Landfill just keeps on keeping on Next Story Column: Where has Hawaii’s democracy gone?