POSITION IN BRIEF
Action to support the public’s rights and interest concerning the administration, policy setting, and budget making for the statewide K-12 school system.
Action to support the goal of equal educational opportunities for each child, and financing procedures to reach this goal.
Action to support the principles of “choice” for students, teachers, parents, and staff as appropriate and essential for improving performance and participation in secondary and elementary school functions and programs.
Action to support the state Board of Education policy on small schools and support the development of schools-within-schools and charter schools as a means of downsizing Hawaii’s large schools and personalizing education for students.
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii believes that education is a unique function of state government and therefore:
- Voters should elect people charged with the specific responsibility for guiding education.
This does not restrict our position to election only of state Board of Education members. League members feel some more local, responsive structure might be developed to bring educational policy setting closer to the people. League members indicated a desire for a structure that could decentralize some of the policy making authority.
- There should be a state board as a strong, independent advocate of education.
Members are hopeful the state Board of Education will develop a strong posture as representative of the people in this single area of concern -- education. A state level board is important to maintain constant, overall supervision of the system.
- A state Superintendent of Education should be appointed by the state Board of Education as administrator of the state system.
Members expressed concern that the superintendent be as free as possible from various political pressures. The superintendent’s first responsibility should be to the Board.
- The state Constitution should specify how the state Board of Education members are to be elected, who will appoint the state Superintendent of Education, and define the Superintendent's working relationship with the Board.
What we are emphasizing is that the Hawaii State Constitution should outline the educational structure, thereby promising the citizens of the state with assurance that the structure will not be changed without their consent.
Consensus, September 1970
- Tools should be provided which assure public input at the local level in educational policy setting.
This statement, which arose from the second year study centering on school finance, again emphasizes that the system needs to be close to the people. It is important to encourage and facilitate meaningful citizen input at the local level in the early stages of budget development when school districts are setting their priorities.
- We support the state general fund as the primary source of funding for thestatewide K-12 school system.
This method provides a broader, more equitable and dependablebase for school financing than would result with local district
- We oppose giving the state Board of Education the power to tax.
- We support a budget-making process that provides for input by citizens atthe local level, by the state Board of Education, by the Department ofEducation staff, and by legislators.
League members expressed general support for the method in which educational priorities are presently assembled for budget-making, but they expressed concern that the process should:
- Assure meaningful citizen input at the local level in the early stages of budget development.
- Provide a device for thoughtful, realistic priority setting by the Board of Education and Department of Education.
- Include the legislative review implicit in our state funding processes. This legislative review, as presently structured, is costly in both time and money. Inefficiency in scheduling hearings results in department staff waiting hours, sometimes days for their call to testify.
- Tools should be provided within the financial structure to assure that the capital and operating budget for education, once adopted, will be followed closely.
- Priorities established in the budget should not be unduly altered.
- In release of funds for education, the governor should not attempt to change the adopted priorities. We believe spending decisions should be made within the framework of the originally established budget priorities.
Consensus, December 1971
- The League believes that the best approach to revitalization of Hawaii’s public schools is through implementation of the principle of “choice” for elementary and secondary schools in Hawaii.
Implementation of the principle of choice means the League will support the following:
- Development of distinctive, deliberately diversified schools and programs to give students, teachers, parents, and staff good reason to choose an alternative school.
- Freedom for students, teachers, parents, and staff to choose the school or program in which they prefer to participate.
- Autonomy for the school or program to make its own decisions: administrative, financial, personnel, and curricular to carry out the innovative features that make it distinctive.
- Increased parental and community access and involvement in the schools
Educational choices may involve content, instructional methods, emphases, and activities, either in separate schools or in programs within a school. Choice does not imply neglect of basic skills or lack of educational standards. On the contrary, the purpose of providing alternatives is to create settings in which students are involved and motivated to learn, in which teacher satisfaction and commitment is high, to which the parents give confidence and support, and which have a chance of improving the system of educational delivery.
* Sometimes the word “choice” is used in support of voucher systems. In reaching this position, we did not consider vouchers. Therefore, this position cannot be interpreted to support or to oppose the use of vouchers.
As this study began in early 1970, our first task was to develop an understanding of the statewide system as it stood. Initial study efforts centered on top state administration levels and the provisions for education in our state constitution. The position for elected school boards at some level of government was reached in late spring 1970, and almost immediately Leaguers throughout the state were immersed in a campaign against ballot proposals advanced by the 1970 legislature to eliminate the constitutional provisions for an elected state Board of Education and to remove the provision that the board would select the state superintendent. Voters rejected these proposals and the League was widely credited with influencing the vote. The pressure to appoint the school board has continued in the legislature. The League has continued to act to reinforce our position that the voters should elect the people charged with the specific responsibility of guiding the schools.
The second area of study was “The DOE and the Dollar”, which led to a position on financing public education. Interestingly, this section also resulted in highlighting League member concern for increasing public input in education. This aspect of our position was given major emphasis in following years.
The 1972 state convention directed the League’s schools committee to focus next on a study of curriculum, but this area proved difficult. Written material was prepared, but no consensus was attempted. In 1975 the League published “A Parents’ Guide to Schools in Hawaii. This publication was widely distributed through purchase by PTA members, the Department of Education, and members of the public.
Following the hiatus of several years, a new schools committee was formed in 1977 and state convention directed it to review the League’s position on schools. The 1978 League state council approved a new focus: to assess factors which influence school policy and define areas for action; and to develop a plan of action to insure full use of all avenues - existing and new - in which the public could/should have maximum input. Much of the committee’s effort continued to be informational, such as exploring the issue of competency testing and publication of a series of fact sheets on different aspects of the educational system which affect policy.
At the 1978 Constitutional Convention the League again spoke for our proposal to establish locally elected boards of education which would address district concerns and be responsible for selecting members to serve on a statewide board. In line with our national position on equal access to education, we spoke against a Con Con proposal to permit state funding for private schools.
In 1985, in response to concerns about education in Hawaii and nationwide, the Kauai League proposed a new study which would look at how best to improve the education of Hawaii’s youth. Kauai members were particularly interested in the need to update and strengthen vocational programs. Other proponents of the study wanted to look at new approaches to education being tried in other communities on the mainland. Although the study, originally entitled ‘Study of Vocational and Alternative Education”, was not recommended by the state board, it was enthusiastically embraced and adopted by convention delegates.
The committee began its work by collecting reports and data on alternatives such as the Minnesota plan, magnet schools, city as school, and others. Interviews with educators and participation in other educational planning groups were part of the data gathering. The DOE and community college system cooperated, with student data and surveys.
In November 1986 the League brought Mary Anne Raywid, director of Hofstra University’s Center for the Study of Educational Alternatives to Hawaii for a conference, “Action for Education: A New Era in Hawaii”. As a result of the conference, the League continued a relationship with Dr. Raywid who has kept us current on trends in educational reform on the mainland.
The League committee also held a series of “Listening to Teachers” meetings, bringing together teachers and the community for a dialogue about education. Data from these meetings were made available to the Department of Education personnel and others for whom it is useful.
Consensus meetings were held during spring 1987, and a position in support of the principle of “choice” was approved by the state board in August 1987.
Action has focused on educating the public and decision makers about the merits of choice in secondary education and on investigation to ascertain the best methods to actually implement the principle of choice in Hawaii’s schools.
Hawaii Schools Workbook. League of Women Voters, June 1970-February 1971
History of Curriculum Development. League of Women Voters of Hawaii, September 1971
A Parent’s Guide to Schools in Hawaii. League of Women Voters Education Fund, 1975
Schools 1: Federal Funds and School Policies. League of Women Voters of Hawaii Education Fund, 1979
Schools 2: How the Citizen Can Participate in School Policy. League of Women Voters of Hawaii Education Fund, March 1979
Schools 3: Union’s Role In Shaping School Policy. League of Women Voters of Hawaii Education Fund, May 1979
Schools 4: Union’s Role in Shaping School Policy (Part 2). League of Women Voters of Hawaii Education Fund, November 1979
Action for Education I: Alternatives in Public Secondary Education. League of Women Voters of Hawaii Education Fund, 1987
Action for Education: A Conference Report and Recommendations. League of Women Voters of Hawaii Education Fund, November 1986
Charter Schools, Self Government for Public Schools in Hawaii. League of Women Voters of Hawaii, 1997