Democrats say they are similar
to having local school boards
The statewide Board of Education would have authority to conduct town hall-style meetings exempt from some of the formalities required for regular board meetings, under proposals presented Friday by Democratic leadership in the House and Senate.
Majority members say such meetings would give communities across the state more input into board decisions, the same goal that Gov. Linda Lingle is trying to achieve through abolishing the statewide board in favor of locally elected school boards.
"If we allow the board to have community meetings that relieve them of some of the burden of all of the requirements that come along with formal meetings, they'll be able to better interact as opposed to sit, listen and not be able to have much interaction," said Senate Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto (D, Salt Lake-Foster Village). "Board members can be allowed to dialogue there, although it's not the formal meeting agenda.
"My hope would be that it will improve the communication, whether it's here on Oahu or the neighbor islands."
The town hall-style meetings could be conducted with only a few members present to interact and hear issues without having to post a notice six days in advance detailing exactly what is to be discussed.
Decisions would still be made during regular meetings.
The proposal was presented a day after Lingle offered what she called a compromise in her effort to let voters decide on abolishing the statewide board in favor of seven locally elected boards.
Lingle asked lawmakers to consider letting voters decide on setting up four local boards, one for Oahu and one for each of the three neighbor island counties.
Linda Smith, Lingle's senior policy adviser, called Friday's maneuvering by Democrats a "missed opportunity" to bring about substantive education reform.
"This concept ... is quite different from a local, elected board where you have the people who can actually make the decision right there on the spot," Smith said.