Rep. Mina Morita's Blog

Appointed vs. Elected Board of Education

Posted in Education,Elections,Legislation/Capitol,Uncategorized by Mina Morita on October 17, 2010

I am voting “yes” on the appointed school board question.  Hawaii’s families need to hold elected officials accountable for our public education system, however, under the current structure it is very difficult to hold anyone accountable.  We can’t say we hold our elected Board of Education members responsible because most of us don’t even know who the BOE members are and many voters don’t even vote in the BOE races.  At least with an appointed school board Hawaii’s families can point directly to the Governor and the Legislature.

Several weeks ago I wrote about what makes a great school.  Here is an excerpt from that post:

Since 2002 the Lingle-Aiona administration tried to peg school reform on one issue, locally elected school boards. The Chair of the House Committee on Education, Representative Roy Takumi, has studied the issue of school reform extensively.  What is clear is governance of a school system (local versus state board of education) has little to do with successful schools.

Throughout the country, successful schools have these common characteristics:  (1) Principals with effective leadership qualities, (2) Skilled and dedicated teachers, (3) Involved parents and active community support, (4) An Articulated Curriculum, (5) A Safe and Healthy Learning Environment.  Using this framework, I have supported legislation that brought funding and decision-making directly under local school control, worked to reduce class size, add more money for textbooks and modernize computers and technology infrastructure, tried to address the teacher shortage by providing fair compensation to retain and attract skilled and dedicated educators, established a Principal’s Academy to enhance leadership skills, established and adjusted the weighted student formula to adequately address a student’s special needs.

Today’s Star-Advertiser story on this issue sort of misses the point.  It’s not about the BOE, it’s about the best structure that can support transformation at the school level.  Yes, there can be bad, political choices made for BOE appointees but, hopefully, there will be checks and balances to minimize that possibility.  The Legislature tried to address this concern but Governor Lingle vetoed the bill that would have set-up the statutory framework for the selection/appointment process in anticipation to the possible passage of the appointed school board constitutional question.  House Bill 2377, which I co-sponsored, would have set-up a selection committee using the Hawaii P-20 Council to submit a list of potential candidates.  The Governor would have to select an appointee from this list of candidates who are then subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.  This process is similar to the Judicial selection process.

I cannot defend an elected BOE as a “democratic” process especially when voter apathy is so great.  No amount of voter education or money can “fix” this problem in a timely way.  The future of public education is at stake, the future of our children is at stake.  Democracy will not survive if public education is not our most important priority.  So please vote “yes” on the appointed school board question and remember, a blank vote is counted as a “no” vote.

2 Responses to 'Appointed vs. Elected Board of Education'

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  1. Kauaibrad said,

    There should be independent school districts with elected boards on each island, that would be true accountability and the tradition of public schools, but it’s not the choice we are being given to vote on.

    • Mina Morita said,

      On the mainland many school boards have taxing authority usually associated with property taxes, therefore elected boards at the district level accountable to local voters. In Hawaii, the Department of Education is funded through the general excise tax, which addresses inequity in funding based on property values. Under reforms enacted several years ago, most of the budgeting issues are now at the school level (rather than the district or state administration) with the principal and school advisory council. As I mentioned in this and my previous post, boards, elected or appointed, have little to do with school performance. So, unless you want to fund schools through property taxes or give your concept of an elected district board new taxing authority it makes little sense if we are talking about educational reform. Local school boards have been debated ad nauseum and have been decentralized as far as it can go, it’s at the school level.

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