BY ADRIENNE KINGFor over 50 years, the governing structure of the Department of Education (DOE) has allowed the quality of our children’s education to decline. The 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress ranking for Hawaii was 44 out of 51 districts. This rating is unacceptable. Our youth must be prepared to meet the demands of a 21st century workforce and to help ensure Hawaii’s prosperity for future generations.

In spite of the fact that the DOE consumes about 41 percent of the money allocated to the State’s general fund budget, Hawaii’s public education system has experienced a steady decline. The most recent budget passed by our State Legislature called for $1.2 billion from State general fund to be allocated to the DOE. This is your hard-earned money. How is your money being spent? It does not appear to be getting to the children in the classroom.

During the most recent legislative session, the Republicans in the State Legislature introduced bills calling for a periodic comprehensive review of the DOE. Despite the groundswell of support from parents, students, and teachers for the Republican bills, the Democrat Majority in the Legislature allowed these bills to expire in committee without any explanation. What are they afraid an independent auditor will find? As Lieutenant Governor I will support Duke Aiona’s goal for an independent audit of the DOE.

An independent audit has not been conducted since 1973. The audit must be comprehensive, and include examining financial and management practices, and personnel administration. I will fight to make sure the audit is released to the public.

To fix the broken governing structure of our public schools, I will push to make the Superintendent of Education a cabinet level position, appointed by the Governor. I support decentralizing the education system into local school boards to empower parents, principals, and teachers to act in the best interest of the students. To determine the effectiveness of teachers, I will work with the Hawaii State Teachers Association to establish both a comprehensive rating system measuring student academic performance, and yearly student reviews of their teachers and curriculum. I believe base pay for teachers should be offered on a competitive scale to teachers who have completed a State approved teacher education program.

To prepare our children for the future, I will support programs to expand education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. I will also support any school-based curriculum consistent with the federal government’s Race to the Top fund criteria which is an incentive program implemented by the federal government that encourages reforms in the state education system.

Hawaii has applied for $75 million. I support implementing a voucher system which enables parents and students to choose which schools their [the] children wish to attend. The DOE already allows for “district exemptions” which seems like vouchers in fact though not in name.

I believe in fully funding Hawaii’s charter schools and removing the cap limiting the number of charter schools allowed in the state. The Democrats opposeexpanding charter schools for no good reason other than to protect special interests in the DOE and Hawaii State Teachers Association Leadership. Finally, as Lieutenant Governor, I will work to support our State’s growing home school movement.

Our education program should emphasize academics, not political agendas. I promise to work with our next Governor, Duke Aiona, to make education reform a reality so Hawaii’s children will be prepared for this century, not the last one.

Adrienne King is an attorney and candidate for Hawaii lieutenant governor in 2010.