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Bill to abolish elected BOE OK'd


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POSTED: Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A proposed constitutional amendment to abolish Hawaii's elected school board might be in the hands of voters in November.

Senate Bill 2570 would ask voters if the governor should appoint the board, which would retain its current power to appoint the schools superintendent.

Gov. Linda Lingle opposes the measure because she wants the governor to appoint the schools chief directly.

But it passed the state House Finance Committee yesterday and is expected to go to the House floor for a vote next week.

The proposal follows the failure of Lingle and the state Board of Education to arrive at a budget compromise to end 17 annual Furlough Fridays in Hawaii public schools.

Both Lingle and the board have accused each other of coming up with the wrong solution, and lawmakers apparently feel the current educational system lacks accountability.

Committee Chairman Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa) said the bill has strong bipartisan support.

“;I'm hopeful that the governor, despite her opposition, will come around to accept the half loaf, rather than none at all,”; Oshiro said. “;This is meaningful and significant change in school governance and accountability.”;

Lingle, speaking with the news media, said she thinks the only way there will be accountability is to have the next governor appoint the superintendent.

“;I think it is critically important,”; she said.

Her administration has said the bill does not go far enough in reforming the educational system.

In the past, Lingle has tied her proposal to spend $62 million toward reducing Furlough Fridays to passage of a proposed constitutional amendment giving the governor the authority to appoint the superintendent.

But when asked yesterday about the action in the Finance Committee, she said it was too soon to comment.

“;We have a lot of time left in the legislative session and it is premature to take a hard position,”; she said. “;I want to see what ultimately comes out now.”;

Committee member Lynn Finnegan (R, Lower Pearl Ridge-Moanalua), who was the only representative voting against the bill, said she also feels it does not go far enough.

“;I feel very strongly that that's where we need to be,”; said Finnegan, House minority leader, referring to a schools chief appointed by the governor.

Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi, who has opposed the bill, said he is disappointed the committee passed it.

Toguchi said the bill puts too much power in the hands of the governor and state departments.

He said an example of this can be seen in the state Department of Human Services cutting 228 government jobs without giving the public an opportunity to comment.

“;There's no accountability,”; Toguchi said.

He said there is more transparency and accountability with an elected school board.