Love Hawaii schools? Open the Department of Education's Books

The Hawaii Department of Education failed a transparency test in a recent national study. Transparency and accountability are keys to open government and ultimately real education reform.

In general, my liberal friends want more money spent on schools and my conservative friends want transparency and accountability. The debate over how to fix our public system will continue.

However, I think education reformers have continued growing evidence that education reform is working from accountability, transparency, choice and competition.

Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) ranked an "F-minus" for the overall lack of available data of departmental spending.

The Cato study entitled "Cracking the Books" calculated scores by looking at online data from the DoE's website.

Hawaii was the second worst of all 50 states. This reflects a significant lack of publicly available information about the state's financial practices.

Hawaii scored a zero in information about average employee salaries, which was not available at all.

According to this Civil Beat article, "Education is Hawaii's second-largest single expense, accounting for about 30 percent of the state's general fundbudget. It costs the state about $2.5 billion to run the Hawaii Department of Education."

Want to learn about the department and how they spend your money? The report says "Hawaii's financial data are provided in PDF format only, which limits the ability of users to analyze the data." But the study gives them high marks for ease of access on the website navigation "Very easy for a layperson to locate the desired data."

The DOE doesn't show "total per pupil expenditures," which is the average total cost of educating a child per year. Shouldn't our government proudly display how wisely they have spent our money over time? PPE reporting could provide a graph or table to show our money being responsibly annually.

More open, accountable government is needed in Hawaii, especially in the age of the internet, so that we the people can know where our $2.5 billion of taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Hawaii is governed by leaders that like to spend a lot of the taxpayers' dollars. Many of my progressive friends have lofty goals for society written by the tax bill of someone richer than them. In liberal Hawaii, I think those cheerleaders for government programs should demand solid accountability.

"Sunshine" is the means of keeping the Department of Education, and all of our government agencies, accountable to our families and community needs.

Together we'll improve our schools. Will you stand with us and help us reform our education system?