Solution to Hawaii’s Education Woes Debated

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‘This is an email exchange between Republican Minority leader Senator Fred Hemmings and House Democratic Education Chair Roy Takumi over solutions to Hawaii’s education woes.’

From: Rep. Roy Takumi


Sent: Thursday, November 05, 2009 5:54 PM

To: Sen. Fred Hemmings; All Reps; All Senators

Subject: RE: solution to public education woes

Dear Senator Hemmings:

You may want to look at what was in the governor’s budget this year for charter schools compared to what the charters requested before making the conclusion that “It is most regrettable that the DOE, with the aid of several legislators, have underfunded charter schools.” You might also want to contact the director of Budget and Finance and CSAO’s executive director to see if they agree with your assertion.

As far as the inference that charters do better than regular public schools, I would urge that you take a look at the research. While I can appreciate the work done by the Manhattan Institute, I am cautious about accepting at face value conclusions made by organization that have a clear ideological agenda. After all, one could say that the Economic Policy Institute draws the opposite conclusion (no surprise, by the way) than the Manhattan Institute.

See: and

Let’s look at the hard research. For starters, (and only 57 pages) you may want to read: “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in Sixteen States,” Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University.

Lastly, any broad stroke generalization about charters needs to focus on what is happening in Hawaii. After all, success of one system in one state is not indicative of success in another state. You may want to read Brennan Takayama’s study “Academic Achievement Across School Types in Hawaii: Outcomes for Hawaiian and Non-Hawaiian Students in Conventional Public Schools, Western-Focused Charters, and Hawaiian Language and Culture-Based Schools” published in Hulili, Vol. 5 (2008), Kamehameha Schools, Research and Evaluation Division.

An older study is Hawaii Charter Schools: Initial Trends and Select Outcomes for Native Hawaiian Students published in 2005 by Kamehameha Schools, Research and Evaluation Division.

I think you will find that it’s not conclusive to make a bright-line conclusion that charters in Hawaii do better than regular public schools. That said, I do think we need to support the charter school movement in Hawaii but it must be done in a way that is research-based and avoids the blame game and fingerpointing.

‘Roy Takumi is the chair of the Hawaii State House education committee’


Dear Representative Takumi,

I am in receipt of your email regarding my concerns with the ongoing demise of public education in Hawaii. The facts and numbers are irrefutable. The facts are: a $2.4 billion allocation from the 2008 Budget, divided by declining enrolment of 179,000 children amounts to approximately over $12,000 per student. This is far in excess of what independent schools spend per child. Yet, with most rankings on a state to state comparative basis, Hawaii ranks amongst the worst for public education. That is not to say that there are many fine public schools in Hawaii, but there are too many underperforming schools which are cheating our children.

I am disheartened that the DOE/BOE/and HSTA union ‘lunas’ are holding our kids hostage with their self contrived furlough days. You mentioned the state budget. Any student of government knows that budgets originate in the House of Representatives and are approved by the Legislature, not the Executive Branch of Government. I stand by my statement that this legislature has systematically underfunded chartered schools. It is one of the reasons I spoke out at the Budget Conference Committee and voted against a recent state budget. I understand that you would like to “blame” the problem on the Executive Branch, but unfortunately the facts say otherwise. I can tell you that most research groups and national publications are recognizing Chartered Schools as self governing and, for the most part, better performing than the government monopoly’s union-dominated public schools.

Enclosed are articles from Wall Street Journal and USA Today .

You might also be interested in the fact that federal “Race for the Top” criteria which is part of Obama’s education incentive funds (part of the stimulus package which I don’t support) requires lifting caps on charters as well as equitable funding for charter schools. I guess President Obama can’t be wrong about everything and obviously he sees the value of charter schools.

After trying to “blame” the Governor for this predicament, asking me not to “play the blame game” is a sad ploy. Let’s replace the word “blame” with “accountability”. As someone duly elected by the 25th Senate District voters, I want to hold the DOE accountable. The majority party unprecedentedly allowed Pat Hamamato to address a joint session of legislature in 2004. Basically she said, give me the money AND the responsibility AND hold me accountable.

Well, she got the money and autonomy. In four years, the DOE budget went from $1.7 BILLION to $2.4 BILLION. The DOE budget amounts to about 42 percent of state revenues and approximately 23 percent of all spending (one of the most generous allocations in the nation) yet, public education continues to stagnate. The DOE, HSTA leaders, and the BOE could easily have avoided furlough days by taking a pay cut and/or dismantling the top heavy DOE bureaucracy or even taking furlough days on non teaching days.

I do, with pride, stand up and hold the system accountable for its failures. I really appreciate your candid response and hope that this healthy exchange of ideas will cause further ruminations on this subject. All I know is that if we continue to do the same thing, making excuses and throwing money at the DOE, we will continue to get the same result. Please, join me in using your influence in changing the system with genuine reform and not just a campaign slogan like “reinventing education”.

‘Fred Hemmings is the minority leader in the Hawaii State Senate.’