Thank you for expressing your desire to have locally elected school boards. I supported education reform by passing measures over to the Senate that will fund the unique needs of each school and student; give principals autonomy and flexibility over how school funds are spent; convert the School Based Management system into school-based boards comprised of parents, students, teachers, principals, and community members; and give school-based boards concrete responsibilities and allow them to participate in the school decision-making process.
Below are some of the reasons why 30 of the 51 members of the House of Representatives, including myself, voted against Governor Lingle’s education package:
The Governor’s proposal would increase, not streamline, administrative bureaucracy. Her proposal calls for seven local school boards and seven district administrative staffs. That means duplicating many of the functions of the current statewide DOE seven times over. It’s bound to cost more. Moreover, the local boards can create more boards, further expanding government.
Contrary to popular belief, the local boards in her proposal would not have full say in academic and financial matters. What many people don’t realize is that the Governor’s plan calls for creation of a seven-member statewide Education Standards and Accountability Commission (ESAC) that would:
1. Establish and maintain academic standards.
2. Establish a formula for distributing funds for school operations.
3. Establish a formula for distributing capital improvement funds to the districts.
The local boards would only allocate funds according to formulas established by the ESAC. This means that the central ESAC — whose members would be appointed, not elected — would play a major role in deciding how money is spent in the individual districts and schools.
The Governor would have the final say over who is appointed to the ESAC. Her proposal calls for its members to be appointed by the House Speaker and Senate President with the Governor having the final say in accepting or rejecting appointees. The Governor would have ultimate control over who gets on the ESAC, not the voters.
Last, but certainly not least, recent news reports have pointed out that the Governor has presented no real evidence that smaller school districts will improve student performance. At its core, the Governor’s proposal asks that we demolish the current education structure and launch into an untried, unproven experiment in educational governance with no safety net.
I think it makes more sense to strengthen individual schools by addressing the needs of the schools first, giving those in the classroom the support mechanisms and accountability to put students first. That’s the goal of the Democratic reform package.
Great students don’t just happen. They succeed because of motivated teachers and supportive parents who make classroom learning exciting and challenging. To achieve top-notch performance, we need to give our schools and the people in them the tools they need to succeed.
We must put students first. Education reform is first and foremost about our kids and their futures. That’s why Democratic legislators in the State House are focused on the needs of the schools themselves. The type of school board structure we have is one of the least important parts of the formula we need to achieve true education reform.
Effective change requires motivated people to make it work. Today’s schools suffer from an array of problems that have greatly frustrated our teachers, principals, parents and students. Unless these problems are addressed, there is little hope of creating a better future for Hawaii’s young people.
Here are the ideas the Democratic majority is working on this legislative session.
A student-weighted budgeting process to assure schools receive realistic funding for the types of students they are teaching.
A training academy for principals to keep them up to date on educational management techniques.
A bonus program to encourage teachers to become National Board Certified.
An elected board for each school with the authority to assist the principal and teachers in defining and meeting their educational goals.
Greater decision-making authority for school administrators over things they don’t control today, such as personnel, budgets, supplies, school construction and maintenance.
A financial system that ensures the money budgeted and authorized for the schools actually gets to the schools.
The end of micro-management by the Governor and Legislature; giving local
educators the autonomy to do their jobs and — just as importantly — holding them accountable for results.
A school board whose members are elected by and accountable to specific geographic areas of the state like legislators.
Here’s what we can expect if we implement these initiatives:
Funding will be based on the unique needs of each school and its students.
Budgeting and administration of education funds will be more transparent to everyone.
Bureaucracy will be reduced, and accountability will be increased.
Innovation and initiative will be encouraged at the local level.
Parents, students and educators will be empowered to make the most of the potential that exists in every one of our schools.
Pride is a powerful force that can make good things happen. We need to give our schools back their pride. We need to adopt a truly local approach, one that works at the individual school level. We simply must: “Put Students First.” Once again, thank you for expressing your concerns to me.