Democrats like gov’s tech plans
$30.7 million would go toward education and an economic shift
Gov. Linda Lingle's proposal to spend $30.7 million to promote high-tech skills and innovation received a warm reception from majority Democrats, many of whom noted that similar ideas have been introduced by previous administrations.
"If you look at it, it's things that we've all talked about over the years," said Senate International Affairs Chairman J. Kalani English (D, East Maui-Molokai-Lanai).
"I think there's a lot of very, very good and bold initiatives in there," he added, "and we're coming to the point where this governor is saying, 'Let's do some of these things already.'"
Lingle unveiled her proposal yesterday, describing it as the centerpiece of her upcoming State of the State address.
The initiatives would serve as the initial push toward restructuring the state's economy. In her inaugural address last month, Lingle broadly outlined plans to try and shift Hawaii's economy away from land development toward one that focuses on innovation and technology.
"While modest, it will produce long-lasting and significant results," Lingle said. "It's the only way to preserve our quality of life and maintain this standard of living."
House Vice Speaker Jon Riki Karamatsu (D, Waipahu-Waikele) called the $30.7 million price tag "reasonable."
"We'll see how we can work together on this," he said. "We'll have to look into the budget to see how it will fit."
The new spending proposals focus on five main areas: education, the economy, work-force development, linking Hawaii to the global economy and promoting innovation in state government.
A primary emphasis will be on promoting education, particularly STEM (science, technical, engineering and math) skills.
STEM is a national movement supported by the National Science Teachers Association and a bipartisan congressional caucus to put more emphasis on science education.
Lingle's plan would create two academies at all grade levels that would work in partnership with schools to develop those skills and provide scholarships to students who pursue that course of study.
The academies would focus on hands-on learning, such as robotics -- having students participate and build a robot rather than read books on the subject.
Academies would use existing school facilities and augment the curriculum already established by the Department of Education, Lingle said.
While he liked the idea, Karamatsu noted that a key factor will be whether it is supported by teachers. "We'll have to see how the DOE responds to this," he said. "A lot of the teachers are focused on getting their kids to pass NCLB (No Child Left Behind) standards, because if they don't pass, they face punishment."
Lingle's plans also would provide funding to promote existing programs that provide training for teachers in high-tech skills.
Economic initiatives include establishing an Asia-Pacific International Research Center and creating a digital media center that would provide facilities for pre- and post-production work on film, TV and other media.