The taxpayers of Hawaii support the only State-wide school district in the US. An reported enrollment of 183,829 students in 2002 made this district the ninth largest in the US. A full-time-equivalent staff of 20,000 Hawaii Department of Education employees operate this institution. In its 2004 report to the Bureau of the Census, "The National Public Education Financial Survey", the Hawaii DOE reported an average daily attendance (ADA) of 167,739 students, a total revenue of $2,137,931,111 and, by a miracle of accounting, a per pupil annual expenditure of $8,954.
Standardized tests of Reading and Math place Hawaii's State school system in the national cellar. Prior to 1990, DOE officials claimed that Hawaii's children, though below the national average in Reading, were above the national average in Math. Then Hawaii participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). By some measures, Hawaii's students perform worse than students in Louisiana and Washington, DC.
Standardized tests are not the only measure of a school. Defenders of the State (government, generally) school system claim that children benefit from socialization, from contact with other children. This claim is testable. According to a statistician at the Office of the Attorney General, juvenile violent crime arrests fall in summer, when school is not in session. Juvenile arrests for drug possession and drug promotion fall in summer. Reported burglaries fall in summer. According to a study of hospital records performed for The Agenda's author by the Hawaii Health Information Corporation, juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall in summer.
"The issue of social skills. One edition of Home School Researcher, Volume 8, Number 3, contains two research reports on the issue of social skills. The first finding of the study by Larry Shyers (1992) was that home-schooled students received significantly lower problem behavior scores than schooled children. His next finding was that home-schooled children are socially well adjusted, but schooled children are not so well adjusted. Shyers concludes that we are asking the wrong question when we ask about the social adjustment of home-schooled children. The real question is why is the social; adjustment ofschooled children of such poor quality?"
"The second study, by Thomas Smedley (1992), used different test instruments but comes to the same conclusion, that home-educated children are more mature and better socialized than those attending school." ...[Roland Meighan, "Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of its Implications", __Educational Review__, Vol. 47, No.3, 1995.p. 277]
"12. So-called 'school phobia' is actually more likely to be a sign of mental health, whereas school dependancy is a largely unrecognized mental health problem"....[Meighan, p.281]
At least the State-wide system promotes equal treatment, right? A Washington, DC advocacy group, the Education Trust, gives the Hawaii school system an A for equity in financing schools. They should have looked closer. The State Auditor reports variations in per-pupil allocations of more than $3,000, between intermediate schools in the same "district" (as we use the term in Hawaii, to refer to regional subdivisions of the DOE).
The point is, unequal funding allows DOE administrators to allocate funds where they are most needed, yielding equity of result, right?
No. The difference between the 90th percentile score (1996 NAEP 8th grade Numbers and Operations test) and the 10th percentile score is among the greatest in the nation. Other measures yield similar results.
We have a lot to discuss.