Price of Paradise

the future

Ballot question No. 2 would amend Hawaii's Constitution to let the state issue special-purpose bonds to pay for construction at private schools. Investors would buy the bonds and the schools would pay the costs. The "Price of Paradise" asks: Why should voters say 'yes' or 'no'?

'Yes' is vote for education | Public schools need attention

'Price of Paradise'
on the radio

Ballot question No. 2, to issue bonds for private school improvements, is backed by the Board of Education and the superintendent of schools, but the Hawaii State Teachers Association is against it. We'll explore why question No. 2 supporters say we should vote "yes" and why the teachers union says we shouldn't.

Who: Guests: Karen Ginoza, president of HSTA, and Robert Witt, executive director of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools.
Host: John Flanagan.
When: 8:00 tonight.
Where: KKEA, 1420-AM
Join in: Call 296-1420 or toll-free from the neighbor islands, 1-866-400-1420 during the show. Cell phones: Star-1420 or Pound-1420.



A ‘yes’ for school bonds
is a vote for education

By Robert Witt

OUR STATE now faces an opportunity to improve the learning environments for 52,000 students attending Hawaii's 130 private schools, colleges and universities. This opportunity is ballot question No. 2.

Election 2002

If this proposed constitutional amendment passes, schools with aging facilities will be able to repair old classrooms and build new ones designed for learning in the 21st century -- without spending any state money and without taking any funding away from our public schools.

Yes, this amendment benefits private schools, and it should. They do not receive public money and must find other ways to finance their construction projects. The amendment is especially vital for smaller schools that cannot afford conventional bank financing.

Does it benefit only private schools? Question No. 2 is an opportunity to support Hawaii's educational infrastructure as a whole because private schools benefit the general public.

Hawaii's private schools serve everyday families from all walks of life. They educate children who grow up to serve our community, children who have special learning needs and children in less-populated communities. They exist to educate without being required to do so.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association's leadership claims question No. 2 will take the state's focus off public education. But no state money will be used. The state's only role will be to authorize the issuance of bonds.

Private investors will buy these bonds through investment companies. Investors -- not taxpayers -- will bear the burden of an unlikely default on one of these loans. The many construction projects that this amendment will enable will generate more employment and more state tax revenues that can and should be used for public education.

HSTA leaders say that because there is a backlog of construction projects at public schools, private schools shouldn't gain the ability to improve their own facilities. Where is the logic in that? Where is their dedication to the best education possible for all of Hawaii's children?

The HSTA leadership insists that "... this measure is simply bad public policy." Yet 40 other states provide this type of affordable financing to private schools. This is not a new idea.

What state would not want to take advantage of a generous federal tax incentive designed to bring private investment money into communities? This is a tax break that grows local economies, like ours, by giving a boost to the construction industry.

IT IS TIME to stop thinking divisively. We must put an end to the thinking that creates "us vs. them" fears and "public vs. private" prejudices. Let's build bridges of cooperation to connect every classroom in this state and put Hawaii's educational focus on best practices.

During the 2002 legislative session, 74 out of 76 legislators supported this measure because they represent all of Hawaii's children. The House Education and Higher Education committees' report to Speaker Calvin Say said, "Allowing these schools to utilize special purpose revenue bonds would significantly increase their ability to improve their facilities and quality of education, at no cost to the state."

The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, Hawaii Business Roundtable, Enterprise Honolulu, the Department of Education, the Board of Education and the Hawaii Carpenters Union are just a few of the organizations that support the initiative because it means better school facilities and the creation of construction jobs that will stimulate Hawaii's economy without costing Hawaii taxpayers one penny.

Partnership is the new model for education. It is built on the belief that all children in Hawaii deserve good educations. We invite the HSTA to join us in that partnership.

I urge everyone who cares about Hawaii's future to remember that a blank ballot counts as a "no" vote. It is crucial to mark your ballot and to mark it with a "yes" vote for ballot question No. 2 on Tuesday.

Fifty-two thousand children and youth are counting on you.

Robert M. Witt is executive director of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (, a community of accredited private and independent not-for-profit elementary and secondary schools whose programs are primarily academic.



Hawaii’s public schools
need all our attention

By Karen Ginoza

THE ADS you see on television make ballot question No. 2 seem harmless, so why not vote in favor? I can tell you why. Question 2 is bad public policy and just doesn't make sense. Everyone should vote "no" on this issue.

Election 2002

First, we need to make it clear that the Hawaii State Teachers Association is not anti-private school. Private schools have a legitimate place in our society and we wish them well.

We are pro-public schools, however. As public school teachers, we are about making public schools better for every child and we make no bones about it.

Government is responsible for creating policies in the best interest of the greatest number of people. To this end, by design, special-purpose revenue bonds should be used only for the public good.

That is why SPRBs are used for health care, child care, electricity and clean water. Each is in the public good; each creates a better place for all of us.

Private schools, by definition, serve a carefully selected group of people who must meet certain standards. If they fall below the standards, they are released from the school.

Public schools, on the other hand, provide an education to every child. Whenever children leave private schools before graduating, public schools welcome them with open arms.

We take all students, regardless of race, ability, religion or gender. We do not have the privilege of carefully selecting our students or the luxury of not educating those who fall below standards. In fact, we work with those students the hardest.

We wish all public school children could be in top-notch schools. Unfortunately, they can't. We have to fight tooth and nail for every penny necessary to bring some schools up to standard, and debating question No. 2 is taking vital time and effort away from this fight.

Proponents say question No. 2 ultimately will stimulate the economy. We are all for improving the economy, and so we ask you to imagine how it would prosper if we repaired all of the public schools.

If state government cleared up the $600 million school construction and maintenance backlog, it would create a lot of jobs, feed a lot of families and improve our public schools. Meanwhile, government would remain true to its responsibility to serve the public good.

Question No. 2 supporters lead you to believe every private school will be able to take advantage of the bonds. This is not so -- only the big will benefit.

As the Office of Elections states, "Instead of providing a tax-exempt financing opportunity to small, financially strapped private educational institutions, this measure will probably be of greater benefit to large, affluent, financially well-to-do institutions."

Also contrary to the proponents' statements, floating bonds will cost the state. According to the Office of Elections, "Tax revenues to the state will be reduced by the value of the income tax exemption." With the economy in a 10-year recession, Hawaii can ill afford any measures that will cost it revenue.

We've been told we should support this amendment because even though it will affect a minority of children, it affects them positively. We've been accused of abandoning children, of being selfish.

The truth is we are speaking up for giving every child the best education possible. We owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves.

When we create good schools, we invest in Hawaii's future. Creating an informed citizenry and a well-educated workforce is the only way to lift our economy so all can prosper.

Therefore, we must keep the focus on public schools. We must keep fighting for the children who need our help most and provide the best schools possible for them.

So, when you go to the polls on Tuesday, vote "no" on question No. 2. Hawaii's schools are far too needy for us to divert our attention to other matters.

Karen Ginoza, a teacher on Maui and Oahu since 1968, is serving a second term as president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which opposes ballot question No. 2.




Price of Paradise
The Price of Paradise appears each week in the Sunday Insight section. The mission of POP is to contribute lively and informed dialog about public issues, particularly those having to do with our pocketbooks. Reader responses appear later in the week. If you have thoughts to share about today's POP articles, please send them, with your name and daytime phone number, to, or write to Price of Paradise, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI 96813.
John Flanagan
Contributing Editor

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