Thursday, October 14, 2004

BOE hopefuls
assess Act 51

Oahu candidates offer views on
a new law to empower schools

Most candidates running for the three Oahu at-large seats on the Board of Education say the education reform bill recently passed by the Legislature will help decentralize decision-making to the schools, but one dismisses it as "shibai."


What: Televised candidates forum

Who: Board of Education, Oahu at-large race

TV: PBS Hawaii (KHET)

When: Today, 7:30-8 p.m.

Five candidates in the race took part in a recent forum to be aired tonight on public television as part of Island Insights Election 2004, sponsored by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and PBS Hawaii.

Nonprofit leader Robert "Bob" Midkiff praised the law, known as Act 51 or the Reinventing Education Act, for bringing "power down to the school level."

The legislation, passed over the governor's veto, gives principals more control of spending on their campuses, budgets according to individual student needs and creates school community councils to give local input into each school's academic and financial plans.

"I think we have a whole new revolutionary opportunity," Midkiff said. "Basically, the funds follow the child, and you build from the bottom up instead of from the top down under this new act."

But attorney Darwin Ching said the law does not live up to its promise "to empower the schools, the communities, the parents and the teachers."

"I have to admit it's shibai," he said. "If you read Act 51, the principal vetoes all the decisions except the decisions on the academic plans and financial plans. Those have to be approved by the (complex area) superintendent. I think this is an illusory kind of program."

Guy Kaulukukui, a Hawaiian cultural consultant, said the bill "is not a complete step, but is a better setup in terms of decentralization than is the current practice."

"An unambiguous way to ensure that state money goes to where it is needed in state public schools is that the money is attached to the child, wherever that child goes," he added. "The schools are now competing for students."

The only incumbent in the race, Garrett Toguchi, called Act 51 "a great piece of legislation" that will inform parents about how money is spent at their schools and how students are performing, and give them a chance for input.

"It's very innovative for our state," he said. "It's empowering parents to have more knowledge of their schools."

Lei Ahu Isa, a former state representative, called the law "a good beginning." "I don't agree with all parts of it," she said. "I don't think it's shibai." She said it paves the way to holding principals accountable through performance contracts.

The sixth candidate, Cec Heftel, did not participate in the forum. He is recovering from a broken hip suffered in late August.



E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com