Monday, February 8, 1999

Kapolei schools
could get freer rein

Plans for 'new century schools,'
including optional collective
bargaining, will be
heard tonight

By Crystal Kua


Two state House committees will hold a joint hearing tonight on Gov. Ben Cayetano's proposal to create "new century schools" free of many government controls.

The Education Committee and Labor and Public Employment Committee will meet at 7 p.m. at the Kapolei Elementary School cafeteria.

Sen. Brian Kanno, whose district includes Kapolei, sought to have the first hearing on the bill in Kapolei because the two schools being proposed for the pilot project will be the new Kapolei Middle and High schools.

In his State-of-the-State address, Cayetano introduced the new century schools idea, saying these schools would foster an environment of academic freedom.

The bill says that new century schools would create greater flexibility, autonomy and responsiveness to school needs to improve student achievement.

The proposed components of these schools include:

bullet A nine-member board consisting of three parents, three community members and three at-large members who would manage and operate the school affairs. The governor would appoint members to the board.

bullet The new century school board being separate and autonomous from the Board of Education.

bullet The local board hiring the school principal, who would serve as the chief executive officer of the school.

bullet Being exempt from state procurement laws and existing budgetary requirements.

bullet Having the option of being exempt from collective-bargaining laws.

School Superintendent Paul LeMahieu said he has not studied the bill in detail but it sounds much like student-centered schools -- also called charter schools -- a concept he supports. Hawaii currently has two student-centered schools.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Karen Ginoza said the union is also still examining the bill, but one difference -- a source of worry for HSTA -- between charter schools and the proposed new century schools has to do with collective bargaining.

While charter schools are not exempt from collective bargaining, new century schools can decide whether they want collective bargaining at all.

Ginoza said collective bargaining helps teachers achieve balance in the school power structure. Instead of getting rid of collective bargaining, she supports coming up with new approaches to bargaining.

LeMahieu said the innovation behind collective bargaining at student-centered schools is also appealing to him.

Student-centered schools also differ from new century schools in that they have to follow procurement rules and the Board of Education oversees their board.

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