Fall 2001 Home   Newsletters

Winter 2001

Spring 2002

President's Message (Maile Bay)
Second Redistricting Plan Approved (Jean Aoki)
Judicial Independence Project Report (Jean Aoki, Jaurene Judy & Jackie Parnell)
Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (HCALG) (Dorothy Bobilin)
Annual Fundraiser Nets Support
Members who Love to Travel
Mahalo to the Volunteers
Welcome New Board Member
Florida Election Memorabilia on Auction Block
Voters, Candidates Flock to Democracy Net During Election 2001 (Bob Adams)
Kauai League (Carol Bain)
Trials of Charter Schools in Hawaii (Mary Anne Raywid)
James Koshi

The Trials of Charter Schools in Hawaii

Hawaii's Legislature has passed charter school laws each year now for the past three. It is a story of increasing control and hindrance to all who dared start one! The charter school idea came about in the first place as a means to having a set of public schools that are free of the controls and constraints imposed on the rest of public education. The idea was to make them accountable for their accomplishments – or failure – and in return to free them up.

Not even the 1999 law managed to do that, because even though it did try to lift DOE regulations, it left the charter schools it created subject to collective bargaining agreements. The law left the BOE in charge of granting the charters, though in effect denying it the power to turn down any applicants!

The following year's law, that of 2000, closed the loophole by granting the BOE the right to design "guidelines," or requirements applicants must meet. The guidelines were drawn up and, using them, a review panel of educators and an attorney read each proposal and recommended chartering to the BOE, or modifications to the applicant.

2001's law in effect re-wrote the whole thing, tightening BOE control and establishing a faux appeals board (a separate appeals group being necessary to qualify for federal charter school funds). Now, there will be a seven-member review panel consisting of four BOE members ("or their designees"), two representatives of the charter school community (final selection being made by the BOE chairman), plus the superintendent or his designee. This committee will decide whether to grant charters. An applicant denied a charter can appeal to the full BOE. (Unfortunately, both the charter school representatives selected by the BOE chairman represented board members from two well-established 'conversion' charter schools [Waialae and Lanikai], so there is no representative who has experienced what those working in the new start-up schools – a very different challenge – have been enduring.)

Since all 25 of the charters authorized have been issued, the selection process may not appear too vital at the moment, although this panel expects to be included in the review/evaluation process of all charter schools. With respect to evaluation, the 2001 law also contained other bad news: new charter schools would be evaluated by a BOE-appointed evaluator for each of their first two years (a requirement few if any new schools of any type, anywhere, have been asked to satisfy). The small school supplementary allotments earlier required by law were changed to maybe. And for reasons hard to divine, any charter applicant who is turned down is now limited to 30 working days to revise and resubmit the proposal.

The Legislature's steady removal of supportive provisions has been matched by problems from other quarters. The main one is money. The charter schools learned this Fall – after their budgets were set, staff hired, school opened – that they would receive about half the funds the legislation had promised! The Auditor decided they should receive $2997 per pupil – even though the law says they are to receive close to the sum supporting each student in regular public schools – and according to the Superintendent's report, that sum was $6600 last year.

But money has not been the only problem. There have been endless delays in getting new teachers on the payroll (hence, paid), and there have been red tape requirements added post facto by the BOE, the DOE, and, it would seem, virtually every office with which these two must themselves deal (i.e., Budget & Finance, DAGS, the Department of Labor, etc.) In hiring, for instance, the charter schools must follow the DOE's School Code, as well as the Department of Human Resources Development's civil service procedures, as well as collective bargaining agreements.

Despite it all, LeMahieu gave multiple signs of being quite sympathetic to and supportive of charter schools. He had agreed to meet on a regular basis with a group selected by the Charter School Administrators. Unfortunately, no such meeting with the former Superintendent, or the Acting Superintendent, has yet occurred.

Not too surprisingly, then, one of the charter schools has already formally threatened to file suit over the fiscal decision. And I would not be surprised if a class action suit against the State were filed soon by some or all of the rest of the charter schools.

Mary Anne Raywid

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