State assures public schools will not end year early

Georgina Kawamura
Georgina Kawamura
Pat Hamamoto
Pat Hamamoto

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The state responds to allegations that its plan to cut the department of education's budget could abruptly end public schools almost a month sooner. the budget director says that will not happen, but Superintendent Pat Hamamoto, once again, says the math doesn't add up.

It all boils down to whether or not the federal stimulus money is coming fast enough before the board of education has to make some tough choices. The state says not to worry. There are things they can do as a temporary solution. But the superintendent, once again, says cuts to her department can cripple schools.

A $2 billion shortfall forces the state to make some tough decisions. The department of education has to cut $90 million, but the governor is planning to have federal stimulus money fill the gap. If the money doesn't come in on time, Hamamoto says public schools may be forced to end almost a month early.

"The department of education does not lose one penny in this proposal," said Georgina Kawamura, the state budget director. "So for them to be out to the public and making such false statements to everyone, and that people are now starting to believe them, is so unprofessional, so irresponsible."

"As a responsible person, I need to let people know what are the different consequences and choices that are facing the department and all our schools and our students," said Hamamoto.

Hamamoto says the money has to be in by May 4, or public schools may have to shut down early. Kawamura says the state can transfer money from the treasury short term if the federal money is late.

"There's no way we would be behind closing schools as she said," said Kawamura. "How can she say that when she's not losing a penny?"

Hamamoto is still worried about next year's budget.

"What I'm perplexed about is how does $22 million for next year take care of an $86 million budget deficit we know exists currently on the books?" asked Hamamoto. "So that's the piece I'm perplexed about."

Questions about how to divide a smaller financial pie.

The state will get about $192 million in federal stimulus money. Of that, about 82 percent, or $157 million, will go towards public schools and the University of Hawaii.