School board positions
should be appointive


Eighteen candidates are running in the Sept. 18 election for three at-large seats from Oahu on the state Board of Education.

EYES will glaze over once again next month when voters scan the list of candidates for the state Board of Education. Some candidates may feel they are not paid due respect, but if Rodney Dangerfield were to run for the school board, he probably would be elected, because winners rely mainly on name recognition. The scramble shows once again the need for members of the present statewide board to be appointed by the governor.

A heavy favorite among the 18 candidates for three at-large seats from Oahu is former broadcast mogul Cecil Heftel, the former Democratic congressman who lost in his bid for governor in 1986. However, even Heftel feels frustrated in running for the school board.

"I'm tired of going to rallies and not being allowed to speak," Heftel told the Star-Bulletin's Susan Essoyan. "We need the public to know what these people on the board think. Even the Rotary Club doesn't invite BOE candidates."

Two other candidates who are naturally strong contenders are Robert Midkiff and two-time incumbent Garrett Toguchi. They may be highly qualified for the school board, but their main political strength is their last names.

Midkiff is a highly successful retired businessman who has served as an adviser or board member to 30 nonprofit organizations as an advocate for early childhood education. However, his main asset as a candidate is a kamaaina name that has been around Hawaii for five generations; his father was former Bishop Estate trustee Frank Midkiff.

Regardless of Toguchi's qualifications -- he has plenty of experience in nonprofit business and state government, with six years of board membership under his belt -- many voters will be drawn to his candidacy under the impression that he was once superintendent of schools. Sorry. That was Charles Toguchi -- no relation.

Without that level of name recognition, other candidates for the at-large seats or four district seats up for election will rely heavily on the muscle of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. As a result, many board members may be strong advocates of education but stronger advocates of teachers. Even worse, too many votes will be cast solely on the basis of name ethnicity.

The system hampers the governor's efforts to bring efficiency to state government because of her inability to influence changes in education. The schools superintendent answers to the Board of Education, not the governor.

Seven years ago, an Economic Revitalization Task Force appointed by then-Gov. Ben Cayetano recommended county-based school boards appointed by the governor, who would also appoint the state schools superintendent. Cayetano favored the change but the recommendation fell on deaf ears at the Legislature.

Governor Lingle's proposal for decentralization includes seven locally elected school boards, which would be an improvement, at least as far as elections are concerned. Voters would have a better handle on the qualifications of candidates at a local level. Like the task force recommendation, her proposal was defeated by forces that have a stake in the woeful status quo.




Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Dennis Francis,
Larry Johnson, Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke,
Colbert Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,

Dennis Francis, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com

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