Local school boards
up for vote on House floor

Lingle says there is still a long
way to go for a ballot vote

Gov. Linda Lingle's proposed constitutional amendment to create local school boards faces its first vote on the state House floor tonight after legislators agreed to move it and competing education bills along for more discussion.

But just how many school boards would be created is up in the air because committee members removed the numerical reference to seven school boards that Lingle had proposed.

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Many legislators expressed reservations about the bill, now known as House Bill 2332, as they passed it out of three committees -- Education, Judiciary and Labor -- yesterday.

"I'm voting for this not because I personally support it," said House Education Chairman Roy Takumi (D, Pearl City-Pacific Palisades), but to allow "other members to provide their perspectives on it when they debate it on the floor."

The revised bill combines two that were submitted by the administration, a constitutional amendment to create local school boards and another bill to implement the measure if it passes.

"We're a long way from getting this on the ballot, in my opinion," Lingle said after the meeting, which she attended along with Cabinet members and staff. "We have to stay focused. ... We have a lot of hard work ahead of us."

Close to 120 people filled the Capitol auditorium to watch the decision-making on various bills. The House Education Committee also approved House Bill 2002, an omnibus education bill introduced by the Democratic majority to decentralize education, distribute funding to schools based on individual student needs and establish school-community councils.

A constitutional amendment to expand the state school board to 17 members, with each member elected from a specific geographic district, rather than at large, also moved forward as House Bill 2184, although many members voted "yes with reservations."

"It will give each island local representation," said Rep. Hermina Morita (D, Hanalei-Kapaa), noting that under the current system, voters on all neighbor islands decide who will represent the island of Kauai, for example, and can outvote the local residents. "This will make it more accountable."

Four other proposed constitutional amendments also passed out of the House Judiciary and Education committees yesterday:

>> House Bill 33, which would give the Board of Education and the superintendent control over management and operations of the public schools, similar to the autonomy granted to the University of Hawaii.

>> House Bill 1897, which allows people as young as 16 to run for regular seats on the Board of Education, where they would have the same voting powers as other members. The board now has a nonvoting student member selected by the Hawaii State Student Council, whose position would not be affected by the amendment.

>> House Bill 1895, which would establish elected school boards at each public school.

>> House Bill 2589, which would prohibit the governor from vetoing specific items appropriated for the benefit of public schools. The governor would still be able to restrict funds.

That measure provoked spirited debate, with Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kaneohe-Kailua) denouncing it as the "protect pork bill."


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