Hawaii nonprofit says state education data is incomplete

Hawaii nonprofit says state education data is incomplete
(Image: Hawaii News Now/file)

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii education organization is seeking financial data on public schools but has said data made public by the state is incomplete.

The Education Institute of Hawaii has come up short in its efforts to collect all the budget data it wants from the state Department of Education, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

There is up to $1 billion in unaccounted spending within revenue and expenditure data, the nonprofit institute said.

A 2017 financial audit shows expenditures of $2.8 billion, while the department provided data showing $1.8 billion in expenditures, the institute said.

The discrepancy covers spending by state agencies that are not part of the department’s financial management system, said Lindsay Chambers, education department communications director.

That spending includes fringe benefits paid centrally by the state, such as pensions, health insurance for employees and retirees.

It also includes the budget of the statewide public library system as well as the charter school system, which are separate from the department.

The institute wants to capture all public school financial data to format the information into an online tool that reveals how education dollars are spent.

“We want to help the Department of Education help themselves,” said Ray L’Heureux, institute president and board chairman. “You know there’s distrust with the Legislature. We need transparency.”

The education department said it has turned over numerous data files in response to requests from the institute, including electronic budget data, details of actual revenues and expenditures, financial audits and weighted student formula funding.

The department has complied with multiple requests from the institute under the state’s public-records law, but some information remains confidential, Chambers said.

“We believe we have provided everything that was readily retrievable and falls within the limits of the law,” she said.

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