Monday, September 27, 2010


Elected or Appointed School Board?

By Henry Curtis

On Saturday, Sept 25, 2010, Fresh Cafe hosted an event involving three authors (Mari Matsuda, Jon Osorio, Ramsay Taum) who wrote parts of “The Value of Hawaii: Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future” (UH Press 2010). Joining them were five political figures: Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Rep. Tom Brower, School Board member Kim Coco Iwamoto, Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and US Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa suggested that the school board should be appointed by the Governor, so it could be held accountable, instead of the current method where it is elected by the people. Thus the Governor could be held responsible for the “furlough” issue.

Kim Coco Iwamoto pointed out that the Governor wanted 36 furlough days for students, that the elected Board was able to lower it to 17 days.

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa suggested that 17 day were too many, but Kim Coco Iwamoto noted that the Board can only allocate funds based on what the Legislature funds and the State Legislature has slashed funding for education.


The answer to Ms. Iwamoto is that we need to elect the right person as Governor. The BOE is not a check and balance branch of government. Further the BOE could demand that teachers and principals who are removed for incompetence not be promoted to positions in the DOE. The inability to close small town schools in mature communities and reallocating funds to overcrowded schools is another problem with our dysfunctional BOE. And lastly many of us including members of the BOE don't understand the duties of the BOE. For many the question is not elected or appointed, it's why do we even have a BOE in the first place. Lex Brodie would frequently make that point to me.

Hawai'i is fortunate to have Kim as member of the Board of Education. Indeed the Legislature and the Governor have played games with funding of education while the children have suffered.

On the September Primary ballot there was something like 17 candidates. To most of us, it was just a large number of names, none of whom we knew anything about. Not history. Not qualifications. Not record of jail time. Nothing. Just names. If you knew of one or two, you were lucky. Most of us just see a slate of meaningless names. Hey, is that the Pamela Young on TV? Hey, I think I knew this guy's brother in high school. Most of us (all of us?) don't have the time to do the research on these people, so what's the answer? The answer is to make the governor accountable. The Board of Education does not work as it's presently constructed. We have 42 years of history of electing BOE members. It's time to try something new. Let's do it now.

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