Cliff Slater’s Second Opinion
The Honolulu Advertiser
Monday, September 13, 1999
Education isn't underfunded
Regarding the interview with Superintendent of Schools Paul LeMahieu (Advertiser, Aug. 22) Dr. Paul LeMahieu declared: "Education is underfunded, by any objective measure that I can ask anybody to find or trace for me." (1)
In fairness, he did not ask me. So, let me point out a few things:
Another little hint about overhead: The 70 private schools that are members of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools have their common problems and opportunities handled by a staff of just four people.
Again, another little hint about overhead: The U.S. has a far higher ratio of staff to teachers than any other country. For example, for each ten teachers, Belgium has 2.5 staff members, Japan three, Australia five and the U.S. no less than thirteen.(5)
Now what Dr. LeMahieu may have been really saying is that we need more funding given all the constraints of collective bargaining legislation and other public worker union requirements. But that is a far different statement than his unequivocal "by any objective measure" one.
Dr. LeMahieu could have said, in plain English, that freed of these constraints he could turn the schools around on the existing budget. That would at least show us that we have other options than to keep throwing money at the problem.
He could explain to us what real charter schools would do.(6) And how we could significantly reduce school maintenance and cafeteria costs by contracting them out—to parents, maybe?
He could tell us the exciting difference it might make if he was allowed to import a few principals from the Mainland, Spanish teachers from Spain or Japanese teachers from Japan. Or, if he was allowed to scout the Mainland for talented math and science teachers and entice them with premium pay.
The fact is that Dr. LeMahieu is so constrained by union shackles that almost the only action he can take is to ask for more money—they never object to that.
Footnotes to this article and "The tragedy of Hawaii education"(7) from the June 15, 1997 Advertiser are at: www.lava.net/cslater
(1) LeMahieu picks up the pieces. Honolulu Advertiser. August 22, 1999. pp. B1 & B4.
(4) (i)The National Center for Education Statistics linked the results of the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and The Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) for eighth-grade results. They found that if the public school students in Hawaii participated in TIMSS, their average performance in science compared to that of students in the 41 nations that took TIMSS only Colombia, Cyprus, Kuwait, and South Africa would have been worse.