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HSTA: Don’t use federal funds to hire tutors

HONOLULU — After the state Board of Education meeting on Thursday regarding the state Department of Education’s proposal to use federal funds for tutoring services, the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association posted a story on its website expressing concerns.

The HSTA said the DOE proposal to use $53 million in federal pandemic stimulus funds to hire tutors for public-school students as the department contemplates laying off hundreds of teachers, education assistants and other staff is a bad idea.

The DOE wanted to use 33% of the state’s share of $183 million in public-school, COVID-19 relief funds approved by Congress at the end of last year to hire tutors and expand summer school to combat learning loss suffered by some students during the pandemic.

After Gov. David Ige restored $123 million to his planned cuts of $164 million to next school year’s budget earlier Thursday and following critical comments and questions from teachers, student advocates and BOE members, the board delayed approving the DOE request outlining how it would use the federal funds.

Much of the following was taken with permission from the HSTA website, hsta.org.

Osa Tui Jr., McKinley High registrar and HSTA vice president, told the BOE, “Tutors won’t make students who aren’t attending classes now suddenly attend. They also won’t improve the tech situations going on at home.

“The best tutors for our students are our own qualified teachers. The department is creating potholes by eliminating positions, then patching them with for-profit service providers who continue to milk our system,” Tui said. “Using private tutoring is nearsighted and further erodes the true promise of public education.”

Julie Reyes Oda heads the math department and teaches math at Nanakuli High and Intermediate.

“As a full-time math teacher, let me tell you why I failed a kid last semester. The main reason for it was attendance. One boy disappeared about 60 days before the end of the term. All my calls and emails were not returned. Another girl, she came here and there, turned in nothing at all. My calls and emails were not returned,” Reyes Oda said.

“The probability of not showing up for school and showing up for tutoring is very slim,” she said. “So if you’re going to pay for something, give me the chance to teach the kid by getting them in my class. So instead of hiring a private, for-profit tutor, can you hire a private detective to find that student and get them in my room? Give me a chance to teach the kid before you send the money out of state to a private, for-profit company,” Reyes Oda said.

Amanda Lacar, who teaches special education kindergarten and first grade at Mokulele Elementary, testified, saying “The Department of Education is supposed to provide a free, appropriate public education. Private tutors are not part of public education. Teachers are.”

Cheri Nakamura, director of the Hui for Excellence in Education Coalition, said, “We do not support spending $53 million on a one-to-one tutoring program, or $9.7 million on summer learning. We do not believe that the department has the infrastructure or track record of implementing a successful system-wide tutoring program.

“Therefore, it would not be a strategic use of funds. Regarding summer learning, our analysis provided to the board on Sept. 17, 2020, regarding last year’s summer program, showed that the program only reached roughly 20% of our estimated
disproportionately-impacted students, at a considerable cost. If a summer-school program needs to be implemented, it should be a basic program that targets students who are needing credit to be promoted to the next grade or to graduate,” Nakamura said.

“I’m not really overjoyed with the idea of this tutoring unless we can make sure that in this process, that the personnel that’s needed at the school level, along with, especially special (education), and along with the health and safety items that all the schools are going to need, if that’s taken care of first, then I think we can talk about excess money for tutoring, for summer school or so forth,” said Maggie Cox, the BOE member representing Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau and a former public-school principal.

According to the HSTA, DOE Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto and other top DOE officials never notified or approached the HSTA to discuss or negotiate the possibility of paying its members to perform tutoring after regular school hours.

HSTA said it first learned of the plan last Friday when the DOE’s proposal was made public as part of the BOE agenda for Thursday’s meeting, in which the department said it wanted to spend $53 million to hire five private companies to conduct the training.

The tutoring program is not yet fully defined, Kishimoto said. “It is a way to provide a substantial bucket of money based on actually national models that you need anywhere from $1,800 to $2,400 per student to provide supplemental support to students who are two more years behind.”

For more information, see boe.hawaii.gov.

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Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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