Hawaii Special Ed Teachers Lose Supply Fund

Hawaii's special education teachers learned more than a month into the school year that the money they count on every year to reimburse them for basic supplies will not be coming — now or ever. Many of them had already spent money out of their own pockets for supplies.

For the last 10 years, the state's 2,000 special education teachers have each received a $1,690 classroom supply fund. They and their schools use this money to buy pencils, workbooks and other items. They also use it to buy ink and the paper needed to print out lengthy forms required by law for students with special needs, like Individualized Education Programs.

"We always depend on that money, year in and year out, for consumables," said Justin Hughey, a special education teacher at King Kamehameha III Elementary School in Lahaina. "Special ed teachers usually have to buy a different curriculum for their students, and even though we still usually spend some of our own money throughout the year, we depend on this for all the essential stuff."

But the $3.3 million program ended abruptly this year, with only retroactive notice to principals, complex area superintendents and teachers.

A memo from a Hawaii Department of Education assistant superintendent announced the program's termination effective this year. It was dated Sept. 8, but it was not sent to principals until Sept. 15 — a month and a half after students returned to school.

"This is in response to numerous inquiries made regarding the $1690 special education classroom supply funds," wrote Joyce Bellino, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and student support.

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