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Friday, April 18, 2014

Lawmakers want PSS to account for $3M in educational tax credit

Besides the local funds being allocated to the Public School System, some lawmakers also want to find out how PSS is spending specific accounts such as the educational tax credit funding, according to a Board of Education official.

Board member Herman T. Guerrero, chairman of the board’s fiscal and personnel affairs committee, told the board in a meeting last week that questions about the ETC were raised during one of the budget meetings with the Legislature.

Educational tax credit donations to all 20 public schools on three islands average about $3 million every year. These are money donated by private companies to public schools as tax credit, designed for specific use such as to buy school equipment, textbooks, and supplies.

ETC donations are pooled at the PSS central office and are deposited in a single account. If the school needs to buy something, it sends a request to PSS, which then disburses the amount.

Each school’s share of the ETC fund varies, depending on the amount donated to it by private companies. There are schools that have higher shares of the fund due to their aggressive efforts to seek aid from donor companies.

Guerrero said some lawmakers want to scrutinize the ETC account to make sure that PSS is still following policy when using the account. He told the board his committee conveyed the idea to lawmakers that they welcome any inspection of the ETC account because he is confident that all policies are being complied with.

Lawmakers also questioned PSS’ capability to make sure all laptops that will be procured under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund won’t end up being stolen.

“They’re concerned on how many of these laptops will go to the pawnshops…but we did point out to the Legislature that PSS should not be blamed entirely for [the burglaries in schools], considering that other agencies are tasked to enforce the law,” Guerrero told the board, adding that lawmakers should instead ask how many students will benefit from the project.

All junior and high school students in public schools will be given a laptop under the PSS One Laptop Per Child Project. Over 5,000 laptops will be bought for the project.

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