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Hawaii not getting its money's worth for education


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I am extremely disappointed about the furlough days passed by an astonishing 81 percent of the teachers union. As a parent of two children in public schools, a former secondary education teacher and a current resident of Hawaii, I am both professionally embarrassed and angered that the government, as well as the teachers union, would pass such a ludicrous deal.

In the Morgan Quitno's Rankings of state education systems in 2006, Hawaii ranked No. 42 overall. One can't help but feel frustrated as Hawaii is ranked No. 14 on the amount of money spent on each child.

The state's No Child Left Behind school report dated 2008-2009 had even more dismal evidence of a failing education system. Only 45 percent of all students passed their proficiency objective in math, and only 65 percent were proficient in English. What is even more appalling is that the Hawaiian Proficiency Objective is 46 percent for math and 58 percent for reading. We cannot meet the extremely low standards we have set for ourselves. The irony, though, is the graduation rate of Hawaii's high schools was 80 percent. Consequently, we should feel ashamed that half of all students graduating public high school cannot pass the proficiency exams. What sort of career possibilities will they have with such a poor educational background?

Hawaii is near the top of states on spending per student, yet one of the lowest states in regards to a quality education. How can this happen?

Often, when individuals spend more money on a product or service (car, boat, house, lawn care, construction, clothing, etc.) they receive extraordinary products or services. However, in Hawaii this does not seem to be the case. In fact, Hawaii has one of the largest private school systems in the nation per capita. Evidently, the locals learned long ago that the public education system was not reliable, and have created alternate means to educate their children.

Luckily, I will be transferred in the near future, and will not have to worry about using the Hawaii public school system for the next 10 years until my children graduate from high school. However, I feel extremely sorry for the individuals who call Hawaii “;home”; and do not have that luxury.

I can personally attest that many military families hesitate to move to Hawaii because of the poor education system. Consequently, many service members ask for different assignments in other geographic areas so their children don't fall behind their peers on the mainland. Sadly, when service members will ask me for advice in the future on whether they should consider moving their family to Hawaii or not, my first question to them will be: “;Do you have enough money for private schools?”;

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U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeff Tontini lives in Kailua.