Stop playing chicken with drug test funding
The Board of Education has rejected a $400,000 allocation to pay for drug testing of teachers.
A new round in an escalating battle over money for drug testing public school teachers pits the Board of Education against Gov. Linda Lingle with the current teachers contract possibly at stake.
In December, the governor got into it with the Department of Education, refusing its budget request for more than $500,000 to pay for testing. Last week, the BOE took a turn, voting down a motion to set aside $400,000. Board members argued that if the governor wants the drug tests that she insisted be a non-negotiable part of the contract, she should not have rejected the funding request.
Hovering in the background is a potential suit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii if random testing moves forward. The ACLU, which has the backing of more than 200 teachers, says random testing violates the law; it has no objection to tests when there is reasonable suspicion.
The conflict is as much about power and authority as it is about money. The governor has long sought to reorganize the department and the board without success.
Though Lingle contends the department has enough in its $2 billion budget for testing, she should be willing to pay for a program she required.
Not implementing the tests would likely invalidate the contract, nullifying raises teachers have been receiving since July. The situation should not be allowed to deteriorate further. Voiding the contract would result in a mess of problems, and neither the governor nor school authorities should be playing a game of chicken with public education as the wager.
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