Published Online: June 15, 2009

Hawaii Applies for Stimulus Funds

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle applied for $192 million in new federal stimulus money Friday, and she promised to spend it all on education.

The federal government had set aside the money for Hawaii, but the governor had to apply for it to make sure it was delivered.

Lingle this spring wanted to use the money to help plug the state's deficit, but legislators prevented her from doing so by budgeting the money over the next two years for education.

"I have made a commitment, as reflected in this application, to use the entire government services portion of Hawaii's allocated funds for education programs," Lingle wrote in her application letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

State Board of Education chairman Garrett Toguchi had previously worried that Hawaii could appear lackadaisical compared to some 27 other states that already sought the money if it failed to apply for the funds early. But on Friday he praised Lingle for beating a July 1 deadline to seek the funds.

"We are pleased Governor Lingle understood the urgency of applying for these federal moneys as quickly as possible so we can continue to improve the education of our students and give teachers more support," Toguchi said.

The federal government is expected to award some $5 billion more by the end of the year in competitive grants to states that pursue higher standards, quality assessments, data systems and teacher quality programs. Lingle pledged to work toward those goals.

Toguchi feared the state might lose out on these competitive grants if it didn't swiftly apply for the $192 million.

Lingle didn't ask for the money until Friday because she needed to include the state's most up-to-date financial outlook in the application, said spokesman Russell Pang. The state Council on Revenues' May 28 forecast resulted in an estimated $729 million budget shortfall over the next two years.

Since then, Lingle had to review the numbers and meet with Department of Education and University of Hawaii officials before requesting the money, Pang said.

Lingle is seeking $111 million for the state's public schools, more than $46 million for its universities and $35 million for charter schools and science and math education.

The Board of Education deferred a vote on its budget Friday and passed a motion urging the governor and the Legislature to find alternate sources of revenue to ease the impact of education cuts.

The Department of Education faces budget cuts totaling $468 million over the next two years, and board members are trying to find ways to prevent resorting to teacher furloughs.

Lingle has ordered three days of unpaid furloughs per month for 14,500 state employees starting in July. She can't order furloughs for educators, but she's restricting the education budget by an equivalent amount.

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