Friday, June 28, 2002

Voucher ruling
has no isle effect

Education officials worry a local
program would divert funding
and create restrictions

By Treena Shapiro

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the use of public funds to subsidize private school tuition will have no immediate effect in Hawaii, education officials said yesterday.

The state Department of Education and the teachers union question the use of private school vouchers, which they fear would divert money from public schools, while private schools worry that accepting public funds would come with federal regulations.

Karen Ginoza, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said the union was disappointed in the Supreme Court decision but will continue to fight a voucher program.

"It really takes away from public education," she said. "The goal really should be on how we should help all children in the public schools."

Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto said, "Any time you start to take money out of the state funds that are dedicated for education, whether it be for vouchers, whether it be for special projects, it would always be our concern whenever money is being taken from the education budget."

Iolani School Headmaster Val Iwashita said vouchers could be viewed as a catalyst for change and would put pressure on public schools to become more competitive in the marketplace.

However, he added, "School vouchers are not a cure-all to education in America, and certainly it is one of many alternatives that can and should be looked at to try to improve schooling for our children."

However, while "school vouchers may be looked upon as a real boon to our existence," he worries that taking public money could lead to more restrictions at private schools.

Lou Salza, ASSETS School head of school, said he supports choice in schools. Like Iwashita, however, Salza also is concerned that public money could come with governmental rules and regulations.

House Education Chairman Ken Ito said that he personally opposes voucher systems. The state Constitution prohibits using public funds for sectarian and private educational institutions, so a voucher system would require a constitutional amendment, Ito said.

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