Controlling Public Education in Hawaii

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    “Laura Brown Image”

    Gov. Linda Lingle’s plea to allow the formation of local school boards and a decentralized public school system in Hawaii has apparently fallen on deaf ears at the state Capitol.


    Though many parents, teachers and taxpayers say they want the ineffective public school system reformed, House Education Chair Roy Takumi and Senate Education Chair Norman Sakamoto silenced debate on the issue by killing the bills without giving the public the benefit of hearings.

    Now, it appears only one Democrat education bill to “reform” the system, House Bill 289, may survive the crossover of bills from House to Senate. The 35 Democrats who signed the bill say the measure will provide administrative support to schools for personnel, fiscal and procurement of services as well as administration and operation of special education programs and special schools.

    Unfortunately, HB 289 duplicates current law as Superintendent Pat Hamamoto already has moved to form multiple-complex administrative areas. The legislation also adds more bureaucracy and protects numerous bureaucrats draining the public education funds with their salaries and benefits.

    The biggest flaw in HB 289 is the legislation permits the school superintendent to organize the Department of Education — rather than the Board of Education as Lingle wants — into clusters, merely etching into stone an additional layer of extraneous administration.

    Another provision of the bill allows the superintendent to unilaterally appoint complex-area advisory boards and to determine the composition and rules governing the boards.

    This law would sound the death knell for community involvement in public education.

    As expected, the 13-member Board of Education — with Member Laura Thielen dissenting — voted last week to support the intent of HB289, but had many questions. These were:

    *Why would the superintendent appoint local advisory boards and not the Board of Education policy?

    *What if a local board recommends an action that is contrary to Board of Education policy?

    *What if a local board recommends an action that is contrary to School Community Based Management policy?

    *What would happen if the Board wanted to reorganize complex-areas?

    The greater question is why would an elected State Board support a structure the Department of Education will then use to prove to the Legislature that the Board itself is outmoded and useless?

    That would mean the superintendent would then have absolute power over approximately 35,000 employees.

    The next step surely will be obtaining the power of taxation to control a budget approaching $2 billion.

    Those who understand the full impact of HB 289 say checks and balances in government will go completely awry and there will be no power great enough to fix the damage brought on by this dangerous bill.

    ”’Laura Brown is the education reporter for and can be reached via email at”’