Weighing In On Proposed State Department of Education Reforms

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    Should the state of Hawaii keep a single, statewide Board/Department of Education, or decentralize into several (the number I keep hearing is seven) district Boards/Departments of Education? There has certainly been a lot of TV and newspaper coverage on the issue. How is a concerned citizen supposed to follow all these claims and counterclaims? Obviously, we want to do what is right for the children of Hawaii, but what ”’is”’ right?

    As a former elected member of the state BOE (1992-1996), I have had a better chance than most to observe our state system in action and I’d like to share some conclusions with you.

    First, there is no question that Hawaii’s education system is producing disappointing results. Everyone agrees on that. And everyone agrees that something must be done. We’d all like to put more money into the schools but, unless we’re willing to increase taxes substantially, or profoundly decrease the government services to which we have become accustomed, there doesn’t seem to be much extra money around. Even if that were an answer, it’s not really available to us.

    Second, we need to stop playing the blame game. The same children, parents, teachers, unions, government and educational officers will be in the educational system whether we have one BOE or 1 million. Nothing is to be gained by pointing fingers. It doesn’t matter who is at fault for our unsatisfactory educational performance. It’s enough that we need to improve … we need to improve.

    I hate to use what is becoming a clich

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