Thursday, February 4, 1999



Hawaii State Seal

Senate panel
advances bill to fight
brown tree snake

Legislature Directory
By Pat Omandam
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

State officials say a Senate bill that creates a task force to find the best way to stop the brown tree snake from establishing itself in Hawaii is unnecessary because such an effort is already under way.

Nevertheless, state Sen. Marshall Ige (D, Kaneohe), author of Senate Bill 521, believes the advisory group may be needed so nothing literally slips through the cracks.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature For example, Ige suggested local agriculture personnel also inspect departing aircraft on Guam so the state doesn't rely solely on inspectors from the wildlife services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do the job.

Discussion of one of the most dangerous alien species threats to Hawaii took place before the Senate Economic Development Committee yesterday, a few hours after President Clinton issued an executive order to expand federal efforts to fight the influx of foreign animals and plants into the country.

The brown tree snake (boiga irregularis) has caused problems on Guam since it was introduced to the island after World War II. It is responsible for the extinction of nine of the island's 12 native forest birds and half of Guam's native lizard population.

And the snakes have produced hundreds of power outages on the island, bitten numerous people and decimated Guam's poultry industry -- all of which could happen to Hawaii, officials warn.

Last August, a brown tree snake from Guam was found dead in the landing gear of an Air Micronesia aircraft at Honolulu Airport. It was the eighth brown tree snake to be found in Hawaii since 1981.

State Agriculture Deputy Director Letitia N. Uyehara told lawmakers yesterday legislation is not needed. She said a brown tree snake technical committee is already advising the Coordinating Group of Alien Pest Species on issues dealing with snake inspection, legislation and interdiction at the state and federal levels.

Still, the Senate committee yesterday passed the bill creating the task force, which now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Paul J. Conry, wildlife program manager for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, added the committee issued a report in January 1998 that identified seven areas in which actions are needed to improve Hawaii's defense against the snakes.

Those actions are to secure federal funds to continue Guam's snake control program and improve the state's ability to inspect all arriving Guam flights with high-quality dog teams, as well as its capacity to capture all escaped snakes.

Right now, the state Department of Agriculture oversees inspections of aircraft arriving from Guam, while the Department of Land and Natural Resources responds to snakes found in Hawaii.


Bills are aimed at
retaining teachers

By Crystal Kua
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

If you train them here, they will stay.

With teachers recruited from the mainland leaving their island jobs at a higher rate than those who are trained locally, this philosophy is behind several bills moved yesterday by the state House Education Committee.

Measures are aimed at attracting and keeping teachers in hard-to-fill subjects and geographic locations in Hawaii.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature More teachers are needed in special education, math, science, vocational education and Hawaiian language immersion. A shortage of teachers is also a problem on neighbor islands such as Molokai and Lanai and in rural areas of Oahu.

Bills propose to:

bullet Allot money for public service announcements to promote teaching as a career.

bullet Fund the expansion and improvement of the University of Hawaii College of Education teacher training program with more faculty recruitment, salaries and tuition scholarships.

bullet Set aside funds to UH for programs to increase the number of teachers on the neighbor islands and shortage areas.

Acting Deputy School Superintendent Al Suga told committee members that the number of teacher education graduates from Hawaii universities has not kept up with the need for teachers, which led to recruiting of teachers on the mainland.

But the Department of Education found that over the last five years, about 26 percent to 47 percent of mainland hires sent to shortage areas left at the end of the first year.

They reported leaving because of Hawaii's high cost of living, a feeling of isolation from the mainland, and difficulty adjusting to working conditions and local cultural values and traditions, according to Suga.

The department said it found that the attrition rate for teachers hired from local universities was less than 10 percent, which is why Hawaii residents should be tapped to fill critical positions.

UH College of Education Dean Randy Hitz said statistics showed that teachers trained locally are four times as likely to stay on the neighbor islands to teach than teachers recruited from the mainland.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Karen Ginoza said the union would be willing to discuss at the bargaining table pay differentials for teachers in rural areas.

Ginoza said teachers who leave after a year, especially those who in special education, report being overloaded with work and frustrated with a lack of support.

Suga said that beginning teachers must be afforded the support to help them succeed and reduce their attrition rate.


Crack down on island
‘diploma mills,’ Office of
Consumer Protection urges

By Pat Omandam
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Last summer, when New York state resident Joan Albert wanted to complete a college education she started 25 years ago, she chose a distance-education program at Cambridge State University in Shreveport, La.

But when Louisiana's attorney general and the FBI closed it last year for possible money laundering, the unaccredited school packed up and moved to Hawaii.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature That prompted Albert -- who was out $1,545 in tuition -- to file a complaint with the state Office of Consumer Protection on Jan. 15.

"At the time, nothing seemed suspicious," Albert said in her complaint.

Executive Director Jo Ann Uchida told members of the House Higher Education Committee meeting last week that this is one example of the problems caused by unaccredited degree-granting institutions that operate unchecked in Hawaii.

Along with Louisiana, Hawaii has lax laws regulating these schools, many of which use Hawaii simply as a "mail drop" to offer college diplomas for a fee but without requiring any academic work, Uchida said.

There are now about 125 such schools here, but the number likely will grow as Louisiana toughens its laws, she said.

"I have no doubt the number of schools will continue to grow if the law does not change," said Uchida, whose office has sued about a half dozen schools over the last 18 months for misrepresenting their accreditation status.

Uchida and others favored House Bill 252 because it would require these schools to disclose their lack of accreditation in all literature, ban them from issuing medical and law degrees and require they have a physical presence in Hawaii -- in part so the Consumer Protection office can serve them legal papers if they are in violation.

The committee agreed with its chairman, Rep. David Morihara (D, Makawao), to forward an amended bill to the House Consumer Protection Committee.

While there is broad consensus that tougher laws are needed, the state Legislature the past four years has struggled to find common ground acceptable to accredited schools such as the University of Hawaii and the University of Phoenix, as well as nonaccredited but legitimate institutions based in the islands. The bill died in conference committee last year.

David G. Warren, University of Phoenix academic affairs director, said "diploma mills" hurt all public and private educational institutions because the quality of their educational programs, faculty and facilities is not scrutinized by the state.



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