Friday, September 30, 2016


Jim Williams is correct in resigning from the Board of Education following Governor Ige’s huge snub

Williams wrote [in his resignation letter] that the work of Ige’s
Every Student Succeeds Act team, which aims to “develop a blueprint for Hawaii’s public schools that is consistent with ESSA,” actually falls under the BOE’s jurisdiction. The ESSA team was announced in April 2016.—Civil Beat article by Courtney Teague

by Larry Geller

Hawaii’s Governor Ige seems to have a penchant for setting up teams that work outside the organizations responsible and so undermine the authority of those organizations. Jim Williams, whose many positions in the educational sphere were described in the Civil Beat article, resigned on Thursday citing Gov. Ige’s “lack of faith in and support of the Board.”

At issue is Gov. Ige’s creation of a task force charged with creating a blueprint for implementing the federal Every Student Succeeds Act in Hawaii—outside of the constitutionally created state Board of Education.

Had Ige discussed the need for a “blueprint” with the BOE, they could have formed a team themselves, or taken whatever other action they felt appropriate. The Governor could have offered resources or asked them to let him know what they might need that would not (say) be covered in their budget.

If the BOE were to fail to take action, well, that would be a message and perhaps a green light for the Governor to step in more directly in some way.

Considering that the BOE was bypassed in creating Ige’s “blueprint,” can they be expected to embrace it wholeheartedly? When the document lands on their desks, what kind of a reception will it get?

And what about the Superintendent of Schools, who was notably excluded from the task force:

In a high-profile snub that's raising eyebrows, the governor decided against appointing state schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi to a newly-formed task force charged with overhauling Hawaii's public school standards and testing.

[HawaiiNewsNow, Superintendent kept off governor's task force to overhaul Hawaii schools, 5/10/2016]

Who or whom (?) does the Governor think will be charged with implementing whatever his team comes up with? Both the Superintendent and the Board have been snubbed, so one might forgive them for being less than enthusiastic about the team’s work product, if that’s how it turns out.

Someplace in my dusty archives from pre-Internet days I have a couple of other “blueprints” produced as a result of efforts outside the state agency responsible. My memory tells me that despite long and earnest effort, they were not implemented.

A recent example, with apologies for changing the subject for a moment: Recall the Governor’s emergency proclamation and formation of a  Governor's Leadership Team on Homelessness last year that was given the following responsibility:

The Governor’s Leadership Team on Homelessness will identify and assign parcels of land to be used for the creation of temporary shelters in one or two communities; implement measures to transfer residents of homeless encampments to shelters; work with service providers to establish protocols to assess shelter residents for financial, physical, mental health and other needs; and determine costs and obtain funding to meet these objectives.

[from a news release dated 6/27/2015]

These activities should have been carried out under his homeless czar, and it is hard to see how legislators, the Honolulu mayor, and representatives of two congresspeople, none of whom have expertise or a connection to the tasks described, can be effective. And that’s besides the fact that the goals assigned are not at all the ones that can reduce homelessness in Hawaii.

Wouldn’t it have been better to beef up the staff of the gov’s homeless czar to create an authority capable of making a dent in the growing problem, which actually will require not just the responsibilities that the Governor described but must include creation or identification of truly affordable housing in sufficient quantity and a solution to the problem of Hawaii’s chronically low wages?

Team member Rep. Sylvia Luke was quoted in the Governor’s news release:

“We really need to come together on enforcement, but also in providing alternative sites and coordinated services. This is a monumental step to pull together resources of the federal, state and county governments,” said Rep. Luke, chair, House Finance Committee.

That’s not to say we don’t need temporary shelters—we do. But again, the responsibilities Ige described were to be solved outside the office of the homeless coordinator, undermining his authority.

The entire news release is based on “enforcement” and “shelters,” and omits any mention of evidence-based solutions such as Housing First which actually can reduce the number of Hawaii’s street dwellers by providing housing and the necessary supports to enable people to remain in their homes. In other words, the charge given to the task force by the Governor is doomed from the outset.

And what contribution can Rep. Luke make if she believes that the services provided at present, which are valuable but cannot reduce the street population, along with adding more shelters, are what they must do?

Back to education.

Jim Williams has made a statement. It has been heard, per the Civil Beat article.

Now, how will Governor Ige both repair the damage that his task force appointments have created, and also ensure that Hawaii embraces the Every Student Succeeds Act to the greatest extent, and in a way that can do the best job for our keiki?


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