BY GARRETT TOGUCHI – It has become clear that Hawaii’s economy is not improving as quickly as we had hoped, and that a recovery will be slowed by the tragic natural disaster in Japan. Governor Neil Abercrombie has stated he intends to continue providing ‘government services that people expect’ as he and the Legislature prepare to make difficult budgetary decisions in coming weeks.

I agree with Governor Abercrombie, and strongly urge him and the Legislature to prioritize crucial government services that people not only expect, but deserve and need, especially during difficult economic times. As we know, Hawaii’s public schools are still suffering from the impact of an unprecedented, nearly half-billion dollar reduction that resulted in layoffs, furloughs, cuts to programs, classroom equipment and supplies. Campuses are deteriorating and teachers are increasingly being forced to do more with less.

The Board is gravely concerned about additional proposed cuts to education amounting to $110 million in the next two fiscal years. Such drastic funding decline would cripple our schools, placing a tremendous burden on teachers to the detriment of students’ education. The Department of Education has warned the Legislature that another round of deep reductions will hit the core of our schools, likely leading to layoffs of educators, crowded classes and fewer student support services.”

While revised revenue projections may reflect an even greater shortfall, I urge the Legislature to do all it can to protect public education, including potentially delaying the implementation of Act 167.

As challenging as Hawaii’s financial condition is, we cannot afford to shortchange education, as our state’s social and economy prosperity depends on students who deserve and need a quality education to become responsible and productive global citizens.

 

Garrett Toguchi is the chairman of the Hawaii State Board of Education

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