FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2002
Rep. Ken Ito
State Capitol, Room 420
Rep. Brian Schatz
Elected School Boards Now Part of House Education Reform Measure
House Democrats have amended their landmark education reform bill to require that all local school boards be elected instead of a combined appointed/elected board as originally proposed, according to Rep. Ken Ito, chair, House Education Committee, and House Majority Whip Brian Schatz, who is working closely with the committee to reshape Hawaii's public school system.
House Bill 2037, House Draft 2, is scheduled for passage on Second Reading by the House when it reconvenes on Thursday, February 28.
Also scheduled is H.B. 2033, House Draft 3, which asks voters to amend the State Constitution and abolish the current Board of Education, a necessary step to enact the reforms of H.B. 2037.
Ito said if voters approve the constitutional amendment, a House-Senate task force will be formed to ensure that all necessary statutory provisions are in place for the new school system, including laws to govern the election of district school boards.
"After much discussion, we felt it was most important that all the members of the new school boards be chosen by the people who live in the districts and not appointed by someone far away," Ito said. "I'm very confident that voters will choose wisely and carefully on behalf of the children."
The amended education reform package calls for a complete overhaul of the existing structure. The single, statewide school district will be transformed into 15 individual districts. According to the bill, districts will be required to reflect contiguous land areas, where possible.
"A reapportionment commission for schools will define the school districts," Schatz said, "based on the principle of one person, one vote."
The reforms also call for a superintendent selection commission to evaluate candidates for the position and recommend a list to the Governor, who will then make the appointment from the list, he added.
"We also recognize that there are some efficiencies in centralization, such as Statewide Academic Standards & Testing as well as standardized qualifications for teachers, that should apply to all school districts," Ito said, adding that it also will be the superintendent's job to ensure fair allocation funds.
He said one of the driving reasons for the reforms was the need to "establish clear lines of accountability and authority."
"This has been a bipartisan, bicameral effort and we strongly believe it will work," Schatz said. "But most important, is that this puts students and teachers as the top priority."