Hawaii restricts education funds for now

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HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii's Department of Education approved wide-ranging spending restrictions to deal with budget cuts, with the largest reductions going to the special education budget.

The reductions also will impact athletic programs, per-pupil spending and bus transportation.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/1Dl0V1F ) the Board of Education approved $18.6 million in budget restrictions Tuesday.

The cuts are needed because Gov. Neil Abercrombie restricted 10 percent of discretionary spending from the department's $1.4 billion budget.

The department initially said the single largest reduction should come from special education services. They wanted to slice $9.15 million from the funding set aside for salaries, but special education advocates protested, so they proposed cutting $4.9 million instead.

"I don't view it as salary savings. I view it as money not spent for student needs," said Brian De Lima, chairman of the board's finance committee and a strong proponent of special education. "The reason we have these so-called savings is because we're not spending money that we should be spending."

De Lima couldn't get enough votes in his committee to shift some of the reductions to the weighted student formula pot, the discretionary per-pupil funding that schools receive and mainly use for payroll.

Per-pupil spending at schools will be reduced by nearly $4 million, campus utilities by $1.7 million, transportation by $1.6 million and athletics by more than $500,000.

The funds were not cut permanently. They could be restored if Abercrombie releases more money.

"I think in terms of the trade-offs, there's no good options here," said Amy Asselbaye, board member.

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