Modified ed reforms
deserve honest review


The governor offers lawmakers a compromise on her stalled education reform proposal.

GOVERNOR Lingle has extended an olive branch in the disagreement about reforming public education. Legislators would do well to give genuine consideration to her compromise proposals.

Politics aside, the Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled Legislature largely concur on most of the elements they believe necessary to improve the schools. The public would not be pleased if no changes emerged from the state Capitol this year because of partisanship.

The governor has seen her centerpiece for education reform -- a constitutional amendment to replace the current statewide board with seven or more local boards -- fall by the wayside. She has now revised that to four. Unfortunately, at this stage in the session, it isn't likely that legislators will move that forward, especially since they have not advanced their own proposal to increase the board's membership.

Lingle's intent is to give underrepresented neighbor island residents a stronger voice in school governance. At present, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island have one school board member each, while Oahu has four district representatives in addition to six at-large seats. Although meetings are held on neighbor islands from time to time, most are on Oahu.

The governor also is asking that a formula to fund schools based on student needs be structured so that in three years, principals will control 90 percent of their budgets. She had originally wanted that percentage to apply immediately. Lawmakers are considering 75 percent.

Lingle has based her figure on a Canadian school district, which she sees as the model for school reform, but several mainland school districts that use the formula have found success with lesser percentages.

Neither the governor's nor the Legislature's are magic numbers. The formula should have some flexibility initially. When actually applied to school operations, funding levels may have to be adjusted as schools reconcile new methods to functions.

Lingle also proposes three-year instead of two-year performance contracts for principals, which lawmakers have not yet addressed since it is an issue subject to union negotiations. The governor correctly believes this is necessary for reform and legislators should tackle this matter as soon as possible.


Let sex offenders keep
their right to hearing


Republican state legislators object to a bill that would retain sex offenders' right to a hearing on whether they belong on an Internet registry.

REPUBLICAN state legislators angered by a state Supreme Court ruling that upheld past sex offenders' right to due process are calling for a change in the state Constitution to take away that right and be thrust onto a lifelong Internet registry without a hearing. City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle says his office cannot be burdened with hearings for all those facing Internet exposure on the state Megan's Law registry, but he should provide hearings for those at the highest risk.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that such hearings are not necessary. However, the federal law requiring states to provide public notification of sex offenders' whereabouts leaves it up to the states to determine the circumstances. Those systems vary from state to state.

Hawaii's Supreme Court decided in November 2001 that convicted sex offenders have a right to hearings where they can argue that their names, addresses and photographs should not be on the state's Web site. Carlisle says those hearings would require "a wealth of investigations and a wealth of people assigned to that investigative task."

No offender can be placed on the registry without having been afforded a hearing. The hearings process enacted two years ago to comply with the state high court's ruling should not paralyze prosecutors so that the registry of sex offenders is permanently dismantled. Prosecutors need only to use common sense in targeting the most recent offenders -- one whose conviction was 20 years ago might not be considered still a danger -- and a risk assessment standard, such as that used in California, that can be applied to the estimated 1,900 sex offenders statewide.

Of California's nearly 100,000 past sex offenders, about 1,800 are considered "high risk" because they have been convicted of multiple violent offenses, including at least one sex crime. About 80,000 have been convicted of single, violent sex crimes and are considered to be "serious" but not high-risk offenders. The "other" 16,500 have been convicted of crimes such as spousal rape or incest and are protected by law from being posted on California's Internet registry.

The 2002 Hawaii law is heavily weighted against the sex offenders, who are denied the opportunity for a hearing to challenge inclusion in the registry until five years after their convictions. The offender must present to a judge "clear and convincing evidence" -- the legal system's most lopsided burden of proof -- that he or she presents no threat to the community.



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