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Wednesday, May 3, 2000

official says negative
report out of date

Star-Bulletin staff


Hawaii has received a "D" grade for its former law governing independent charter schools from the Center for Education Reform.

The nonprofit advocacy organization puts out an annual report on all schools in the nation. The latest said Hawaii's law was weak.

But Art Kaneshiro of the state Department of Education says the law has been changed, spurring nearly 40 letters of intent to start charter schools.

Charter schools are open to the public, funded by the state, and are excluded from many state laws and Department of Education rules, he said. But they are not excluded from collective bargaining, discrimination policies, health and safety laws and applicable federal laws, Kaneshiro said.

The Center for Education Reform said states that received a "D" allow "conventional education bureaucracies" to regulate the establishment and operation of charter school so heavily that it limits the number of schools that do start up.

Kaneshiro, who is in charge of helping to implement charter schools, said the original 1994 law was restrictive. The law, which was revised last year, allows up to 25 charter schools to be started as new schools in addition to converting existing schools.

Hawaii has only two charter schools, Lanikai and Waialae Elementary Schools, which were formerly traditional schools, he said.

The national group said the amendment was "a significant improvement" in theory.

"However, because Hawaii is one school district controlled by the state, and because charters there still have to comply with collective bargaining and some district rules, it remains poorly ranked, at 31st, and as a result, gets a D grade," the report said.

Kaneshiro said charter schools are allowed "more freedom and flexibility" in school operations and curriculum, but they also expect "greater responsibility and accountability" for the students' education on the part of the parents and administrators.

These schools were formed in "response to dissatisfaction with the public school system or to help the present system become more innovative and creative," he said.

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