DARE to prioritize public spending

I was sad to read that the Honolulu Police Department is drastically cutting back its popular 25-year-old DARE program — Drug Abuse Resistance Education.

One of my grandsons recently had a visit at his elementary school from DARE officers, and the anti-drug message clearly made a strong impression on him.

But listening to Chief Louis Kealoha explain the move, it made obvious good sense in this challenging fiscal environment to trim DARE back from the 120 schools it currently covers to about 40 schools that have the highest concentrations of at-risk students.

When budgets are tight, the chief said, core responsibilities have to be the priority — in the case of police, law enforcement and public safety. DARE doesn’t fall under the core; cutting funding there helps the department to maintain patrols in O‘ahu neighborhoods.

It’s exactly the right way to manage a shrinking budget, and it doesn’t happen often enough in public agencies, where there’s a constituency ready to fight for every nickel in state and county budgets.

Administrators can work diligently to cut at the edges while preserving the core, only to be thwarted by advocates for the programs being cut who are able to use political pressure to fend off change.

This has been especially prevalent in the Department of Education, where administrators attempting to make necessary cuts and consolidations have had to gird for drawn-out battles before the Board of Education that they’ve often ended up losing.

Everybody wants the DOE to set priorities, be more efficient and eliminate duplication — until it’s their school or program being cut.

With the new appointed BOE coming in this month, hopefully the decision-making process will be streamlined, less drama-ridden and sharply focused on serving the core responsibilities first.

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5 Comments on “DARE to prioritize public spending”

  1. ppcc Says:

    I don’t know why you describe the City has to manage a “shrinking budget” when in actuality it has been EXPANDING, when you take into account the City rail project. How many more schools could have been covered with the DARE program with the $30,000 paid for a pointless Rail opening ceremony? What about the multi-millions FOREVER to run a transit authority? Carlisle, rail propaganda spin meisters and even the sympathetic Star Ad try so hard to compartmentalize the cause and effect of the multi BILLION dollar rail project has on negatively impacting City services such as the DARE program. The rail will fail, however that won’t stop the City from wasting as much money as possible under the guise of rail before they are shut down permanently.

  2. ppcc Says:

    Regarding the DOE, the appointed BOE might be a good start, however it will be mission impossible to enact any positive change that would actually benefit the majority of students and parents. Like Wisconsin, unions such as the HSTA and HGEA will undergo a titanic battle including spending millions and use strong arm bullying/intimidation tactics to keep the DOE EXACTLY as it is now. Horner and the rest of the appointed BOE might INITIALLY be independent from direct union influence, however given enough time, pressure and MONEY (ie Nestor Garcia), things might change. Matayoshi is NOT up to the task to be the change agent for the appointed BOE who will receive no pay and are not able to deal on a day by day basis the constant battle that will be waged by the HSTA and HGEA.

    Even hiring a Michele Rhee type would not be successful as given how strong the unions are, there is NO way such a superintendent like Rhee could fire incompetent teachers or do nothing administrators. HOWEVER since direct firings are not a solution, there are legal workarounds to force dead weight DOE teacher and employees to either get their act together, retire early or quit. Maybe to save face, Matayoshi can stay a little while but they really need a REAL superintendent with the intestinal fortitude that can intelligently wage a never ending battle in which the BOE and new superintendent might lose numerous skirmishes against the unions but win the overall “war” of accomplishing meaningful reform in the DOE.

    Also a new superintendent is needed to change the ridiculous mindset of the DOE in which they spend millions every year on mainland and local consultants hoping to find the “magic” educational methodology to teach Hawaii kids. It is just like the movie Kung Fu Panda in which it was believed some magic scroll contained secret Kung Fu techniques to become the Dragon master who could never be defeated. Turned out there is NO such magic scroll, rather the answer is within ones own self. Same thing with the DOE administrators who a similar mindset that they are constantly paying millions to learn the “latest and greatest” education curriculum and teaching methodology that will magically improve Hawaii student test scores. For example, a few years ago when the DOE paid many millions of taxpayer dollars on a Disney World junket to learn about “new” educational techniques, it turned out that these mainland “experts” were pushing nothing more than improving “quality time” between teachers and students such as having teachers give up their lunch break to spend more time to interact with their students. Needless to say this did not go to well with the majority of teachers who did not want to be forced to spend time with their students on their lunch breaks.

    Within the DOE, there already are pockets of success in which the principal and teachers of a school have found success on their own and it is up to DOE administrators to reward these principals/teachers and attempt to apply the principles, concepts or even mindset of their success to other schools. If other principals and/or teachers resist then that is where financial rewards, peer pressure, subtle and not so subtle scrutiny or transfers might have to come into play to raise the performance levels of other schools.

    Could go on but the key issues need to be addressed in the DOE before any real improvement can occur are:

    1) Elimination/reduction of waste, graft and fraud in the DOE all the way from contractors double/triple dipping in construction contracts to charter school principals hiring only family members and school employees using school credit cards to buy poke, beer, tires, etc.

    2) Change mindset of DOE adminstrators to stop constantly looking to mainland for the latest and greatest “new” education curriculum, text, etc. and instead look at the success that have occurred in Hawaii schools as a result of talented/dedicated local principals/teachers and analyze why they are successful and attempt to apply their success to other schools.

    3) Reward (financial or otherwise) successful principals and teachers and use them and their curriculum/techniques as possible standards that can be applied to other schools.

    4) Enact and enforce a comprehensive student and teacher code of conduct, which includes zero tolerance to cyber and physical bullying which will allow a positive learning environment for ALL students. This is especially critical for intermediate and high schools in Hawaii where bullying in some public schools are clearly out of control (ie female Caucasian student mercilessly taunted in school, Waianae High School year book where multiple times students allowed pictures to show the caption “N*gg*r go home”

    5) Improvement in teacher performance. You cannot fire bad teachers however you can work at minimizing their negative impact such as making it easier and less work for principals to identify “poor” teachers and get support from the DOE to help these teachers make improvments. If some teachers are that pathetic, mentoring should be emphasized including “holding their hand” and just give them a solid student lesson and work plans so they don’t have to do it themselves and have specialists in which they can improve a teacher’s time management, which is probably a major problem with many DOE teachers.


  3. Guido Sarducci Says:

    Threatening to cut DARE is just a bureaucratic strategem.

    When a Department’s funding is at risk or the Department is demanding more funds, threaten to cut the most prominent and popular services.

    This is the ABC of being a department head.

  4. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Please learn the difference between city, state & federal governmental funding. Unlike many municipalities across the United State, the City & County of Honolulu does NOT fund nor does it operate the Department of Education.

    Also, please learn the difference between Capital Budgets and Operating Budgets. Funds from one cannot be transferred to the other – no matter what level of government.

    Frankly, I am glad that DARE is going to be reduced. It really torks me off that it focuses on substance abuse of illegal drugs rather than on alcohol. The latter is far more destructive than the former both in terms of individuals as well as families and society.

  5. ppcc Says:

    Yes, city, state and federal gov’t are three separate entities with their own budgets, however the money to fund these 3 government entities come from the SAME distressed taxpayer! If an Oahu resident is buying food at Safeway or school supplies for their kids at Longs he/she will be paying a GET tax on these items that will be used to fund BOTH the DOE and the City rail project (ie .5% GET minus 10% taken from the State). Yes, the DOE and the City rail receive some Federal funding paid by all American taxpayers, however that amount is minor compared to their overall budgets.

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