Report Title:

Education; Smaller Learning Communities



Provides for smaller learning communities in public schools. Prohibits the selling of school lands and buildings without consideration of using the land and buildings for small learning communities.  Requires the department of education to give priority to establishing early childhood education learning facilities over closing or consolidating school facilities.  Effective date is 07/01/2050.  (SD2)


S.B. NO.



S.D. 2















     SECTION 1.  (a)  The legislature finds that smaller school environments are of great advantage to teachers, students, and parents.  Hawaii has explored smaller learning communities in the past by considering various reforms, including "turning points" in 1989, "breaking ranks" in 1996, and approaching interested foundations such as the Annenberg Foundation and the Gates Foundation.  However, Hawaii has not been able to implement a system-wide smaller learning community initiative.

     (b)  The legislature also finds that research and experience indicate that smaller schools enable teachers to create more personalized relationships with students, leading to learning opportunities based upon students' needs and interests.  Smaller schools provide an ideal environment for project-based and place-based learning, ranging from class-based, teacher-designed projects to whole school design.

     (c)  The legislature further finds that the department of education, facilitated by various grants, has explored schools-within-schools, but it has not created a major smaller learning community initiative.  In addition, Act 298, Session Laws of Hawaii 2006, enacted the public charter schools law, codified as chapter 302B, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which also does not provide for smaller learning communities.

     The department of education is considering the potential cost savings of consolidating smaller schools.  Cost savings appear to be a higher priority than the research-documented benefits of smaller learning communities.  The legislature finds that the cost savings approach to school consolidation is irrational in the face of overwhelming evidence that smaller schools are beneficial to students.  Various authoritative educational studies have found that students in smaller schools:

     (1)  Are more academically successful than those in larger schools;

     (2)  Have higher graduation rates; and

     (3)  Are more likely to take advanced-level courses, and to participate in extracurricular activities.

     The purpose of this Act is to establish the framework and criteria for the department of education to implement smaller learning communities.

     SECTION 2.  Chapter 302A, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new part to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"Part   .  Smaller Learning Communities

     §302A-A  Purpose.  The purpose of this part is to establish smaller learning communities consisting of smaller schools.  Smaller learning communities greatly enhance the achievement of students, including but not limited to higher grades, test scores, and college admissions, and enable students to become better prepared for the workplace.

     §302A-B  Establishment of policy.  It shall be the policy of the department to provide for the establishment of smaller learning communities within existing schools or school districts that shall have priority over the cost savings of consolidating or closing schools; provided that smaller schools or schools-within-schools shall satisfy the requirements of section 302A-C in order to establish or remain part of a smaller learning community.

     §302A-C  Smaller schools or schools-within-schools; requirements.  (a)  Smaller schools or schools-within-schools in a smaller learning community shall:

     (1)  Select and operate under a school specialty status, including magnet, academy, or other specialty;

     (2)  Develop personalized plans for each student; and

     (3)  Create and maintain portfolios for each student.

     (b)  Funds derived from shared facilities usage by smaller schools or schools-within-schools in a smaller learning community shall be used to augment funds allocated according to the weighted student formula.

     §302A-D  Guidelines.  The following guidelines shall apply to achieve the establishment of smaller learning communities through smaller schools:

     (1)  Cost savings or enrollment shall not be the priority in closing or consolidating school facilities;

     (2)  Prior to closing or consolidating school facilities, the department shall determine if there is a private provider willing to build early childhood education facilities, as provided in section 302A-1506.5;

     (3)  Prior to the sale of school lands, as provided under section 302A-1151, the department shall determine if the school land or building is suitable for other educational purposes, including but not limited to establishment of a smaller learning community or an early childhood education facility operated by a private provider;

     (4)  Prior to closing a smaller school, the department shall assist that school to become a conversion charter school, as defined in section 302B-1;

     (5)  The department shall explore alternate methods of realizing cost savings, in lieu of closing or consolidating school facilities, including sharing of administrative support and specialized teachers among schools within the same district; and

     (6)  Prior to consolidation of school facilities, the department shall obtain input of the parents and faculty of an affected school.

     §302A-E  Expansion of e-learning.  Each school district shall develop a plan to expand its use of e-learning, encompassing computer-enhanced learning, web-based teaching materials, and virtual learning, to enhance and create more personalized learning environments.

     As used in this section, "virtual learning" means a managed learning environment in which all aspects of a course are handled through a consistent user interface standard throughout the grade level."

     SECTION 3.  Section 302A-1151, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

     "[[]§302A-1151[]]  Sale of school lands unnecessary for school purposes.  The chairperson of the board of land and natural resources [is hereby requested], upon the recommendation and approval of the superintendent, [to] shall sell any state lands, including the buildings thereon, once used but no longer necessary for school purposes[.] and without the potential of being used for other educational purposes."

     SECTION 4.  Section 302A-1506.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

     "[[]§302A-1506.5[]]  Early childhood education facilities; identifying sites[.]; closing or consolidation.  (a)  The department [of education] shall identify unused public school facilities for use by early childhood education programs.  Suitable empty classrooms, as determined by the department, shall be inventoried for potential use in early childhood education programs.  Priority shall be given to facilities on sites with sufficient space for three or more classrooms to be renovated or constructed.

     (b)  The department shall assist in the identification of possible construction sites for private providers to build early childhood education facilities.

     (c)  The department shall give priority to the application of this section as a condition precedent to the closing or consolidation of unused or underutilized school facilities."

     SECTION 5.  In codifying the new sections added by section 2 of this Act, the revisor of statutes shall substitute appropriate section numbers for the letters used in designating the new sections in this Act.

     SECTION 6.  Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken.  New statutory material is underscored.

     SECTION 7.  This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2050.