POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 02, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 02:22 a.m. HST, Feb 02, 2011
The state Senate kept faith with voters by giving fast and unanimous approval to a bill allowing the governor a free hand in making appointments to the Board of Education, subject only to Senate confirmation.
That's the direct line of accountability voters wanted when they decided by a wide margin in November to switch from an elected BOE to an appointed school board.
Let's hope the House follows the Senate's lead and gets this settled quickly so our public schools can be rid of the uncertainty as they make difficult budget decisions and address Hawaii's low ranking in national measures of student achievement.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in his State of the State speech that he's already put out a call for BOE candidates and is ready to go as soon as the Legislature clears the way.
Lawmakers have been divided over whether to allow the governor to choose BOE nominees without restrictions or limit him to picking from as few as two candidates given him by an advisory council, similar to the system for appointing University of Hawaii regents.
Sen. Jill Tokuda, who chairs the Education Committee, deserves credit for the open-minded manner in which she approached the issue.
She initially favored the advisory council but changed her mind after becoming convinced that it wouldn't give the governor the direct accountability for public education that voters clearly said they wanted.
The constitutional amendment was pitched as a way to address the dysfunction in our school system in which many fingers are in the pie but nobody is ultimately accountable.
How could the governor be fairly held responsible for the BOE's performance if he had no real choice in picking its members?
Rep. Roy Takumi, the House education chairman, has been the main proponent of using the advisory council to curb the governor's power, but has hedged lately on whether he's still wedded to that approach.
All that should be needed to settle this is to read the wording of the constitutional amendments passed by voters.
Here's what the November constitutional amendment on the appointed BOE said:
"Shall the Board of Education be changed to a board appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, as provided by law?"
Here's what the 2006 constitutional amendment setting the UH regents selection process said:
"Shall the governor be required to select board of regents candidates from a pool of qualified candidates screened and proposed by a candidate advisory council for the board of regents of the University of Hawaii as provided by law?"
Clearly, we weren't voting for the same thing for the BOE as for UH, and the task before the Legislature is to enact what we voted for.