Give DOE some room to manage
I feel terrible for communities faced with losing public schools in the face of shrinking enrollment.
But I also feel for Department of Education officials who face endless battles to achieve the necessary efficiencies to improve public education in tight budget times.
Every dollar in the DOE budget has a constituency, and any effort to re-prioritize faces stiff resistance, draining time and energy that could be better used finding ways to enhance learning in the classroom.
The latest battleground is Kalihi, where the DOE is proposing to close Puuhale and Kalihi elementary schools, where enrollment has declined, and transfer students to nearby Kalihi Kai, Kalihi Uka and Kaewai, which have plenty of empty classroom space to accommodate more students.
The DOE says the consolidations will save more than $1.5 million a year, and a Board of Education committee is recommending public hearings to move the plan forward.
But it’s only the beginning of a long and likely bitter fight similar to those involving other school closings.
Shutting schools can be painful for communities, and the DOE should have to fully justify its proposals to the public.
But at the same time, the public has to recognize budget realities and demographic shifts. It’s simply not fair to keep accusing DOE of failing to make the most efficient use of its funding — and then constantly handcuff administrators in managing their resources.
If we hire managers to do a job, it’s only reasonable to give them a measure of latitude and benefit of the doubt.
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