OHA signs on to
Lingle’s school plan

While Gov. Linda Lingle's plan to create multiple school boards has foundered at the Legislature, the issue is still mobilizing forces, both pro and con.

OHA logo The trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs voted yesterday to support the governor's call to replace the statewide public school system with at least seven locally elected school boards.

"Rather than helping underprivileged students, the system further compounds social and economic disadvantages," OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said, noting that Hawaiian children have the lowest test scores and graduation rates of any ethnic group in the state.

"Members of the Hawaiian community must weigh in on the issue of educational reform," she said.

Apoliona appeared at a news conference with the governor, who has been pushing hard to resurrect the bill at the Legislature. Just hours earlier, OHA's board had voted 6-0, with three members absent, to support the governor's plan, after hearing a presentation on it in committee a day earlier.

Lingle's bill to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to replace the Department of Education with multiple school boards has been voted down twice by the House and gone nowhere in the Senate. Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D, Salt Lake-Foster Village), informed of OHA's endorsement yesterday, said he wondered if the board had heard both sides of the issue.

"Should we propose that there be more than one OHA, if their idea is about representation across the water?" he asked.

Last evening, several dozen teachers packed a Board of Education meeting and used the public-comment period to oppose local school boards and offer their alternatives for improvement, including smaller class sizes, more textbooks, support for teachers and time for planning and collaboration.

"More bureaucracy would not help student achievement or put more resources in the hands of the schools and teachers," said Gail Kono, a fifth-grade teacher at Kaeleiopuu Elementary School.


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