POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 9, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 11:50 p.m. HST, Aug 9, 2010
» An earlier version of this story had an incorrect headline.
Parents, school officials, students, business leaders and even a current school board member used their Sunday morning to urge voters to replace an elected Board of Education with one appointed by Hawaii's governor.
Several supporters of the campaign that launched yesterday said they were driven by the teacher furloughs that gave Hawaii the fewest instructional days in the nation during the past school year, resulting in national embarrassment for the islands.
"We need to do something," said Colbert Matsumoto, chairman and CEO of Island Insurance Co. Ltd. "We just can't stand idly back."
The group calling itself Hawaii's Children First wants voters to approve a constitutional amendment on Nov. 2 that would replace Hawaii's 42-year-old, elected Board of Education with a board appointed by the governor -- with approval from the state Senate -- just as the governor appoints University of Hawaii regents.
Members of Hawaii's Children First launched their campaign yesterday to bring out supporters on Election Day, in part, because blank ballots will be counted as "no" votes on the issue.
Dyanna Okazaki, a mother of three children at Hahaione Elementary School in Hawaii Kai, initially resisted the idea that an appointed school board could be more accountable than an elected one.
"I am a strong proponent of education and very involved in my children's school," Okazaki said. "I am on the PTSA ... but I could not name a single Board of Education member."
Okazaki then learned that nine of the top 10 states in terms of educational standards, assessments, accountability, teaching profession and school finance have appointed school boards.
But BOE Chairman Garrett Toguchi warned yesterday that an appointed school board would be less beholden to the public.
"Instead of representing parents, students and educators, appointed Board of Education members would have only one constituent: the governor who selects the member to office and unilaterally controls the educational agenda and budget," he said. "Appointments would be made without true public involvement, based on politics and party lines instead of the needs of our students.
"States with appointed school boards have no checks and balances, a higher turnover of superintendents, and the lowest average scores in the nation," Toguchi said in a statement. "Eight of the bottom 10 states in the Quality Counts 2010 national educational ranking have appointed school boards.
"Ask any educator and they will tell you that improvements happen when the school system is supported with adequate resources, facilities, a rigorous curriculum, effective leaders and teachers, and active community involvement."
However, like other members of Hawaii's Children First, board member Donna Ikeda believes that a board appointed by the governor would have resulted in more pressure on Gov. Linda Lingle to avoid the so-called Furlough Fridays because she would bear more of the responsibility for the board's decisions.
Each Election Day the biggest vote-getters for the Board of Education races are "blank ballots ... which allows the board to be unaccountable," Ikeda said. "Whatever happened (with Furlough Fridays), the accountability would have lied squarely with the governor."
According to Hawaii's Children First, the concept of an appointed school board is supported by the Hawaii Business Roundtable; Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii; Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association; former Govs. George Ariyoshi, John Waihee and Ben Cayetano; Lingle; and community and business leaders including Robin Campaniano, David Carey, Mitch D'Olier, Susan Eichor, Walter Heen, Bert A. Kobayashi Sr., Fujio Matsuda, Randy Roth, Oswald Stender and Keith Vieira.