The governor would directly appoint the state Board of Education, without having his choices limited to a list submitted by an advisory panel, according to a bill quickly moving toward becoming law.
The House Education Committee consented to the process of providing a single line of accountability from school board members to the governor, voting unanimously Wednesday to pass a bill that already cleared the full Senate unanimously.
Hawaii voters approved a constitutional amendment in November allowing the governor to appoint board members, but it wasn’t clear whether he would be able to pick them himself or have to choose from someone else’s list. Currently, Board of Education members are elected.
Former Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a bill last July calling for an advisory council, saying it would constrain the range of people the governor may want on the board.
"We have agreement that there won’t be a selection council," said House Education Committee Chairman Roy Takumi, D-Pearl City-Pacific Palisades. "Ultimately, appointed or elected, it doesn’t matter so much as the quality of the people on the board."
The Senate will have the responsibility of reviewing and confirming the governor’s Board of Education nominees before they take office.
Allowing the governor to directly appoint board members brings the kind of accountability to education that voters wanted, said Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Jill Tokuda, D-Kaneohe-Kailua.
"In terms of being able to identify who’s accountable and to be able to understand that thought process and the rationale as to why appointments are made, it’s very clear when you have one person making those decisions versus a panel," Tokuda said.
Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie said his Wednesday appointment of First Hawaiian Bank CEO Don Horner to the Board of Education to fill a vacant seat is an example of the qualities he’s looking for in future nominees.
"I take the obligation that I have as governor to make appointments very, very seriously," Abercrombie said. "I hope that this will demonstrate to the Legislature as this legislation comes forward that we’re ready to do this now."
The bill passed by the House Education Committee calls for a board with nine voting members serving three-year terms.
The legislation provides guidelines for their qualifications, including integrity and civic virtue, availability, knowledge of best practices, commitment to educational leadership and understanding of collective bargaining.
The measure would take effect as soon as it’s signed into law, and elected board members would continue to serve until Abercrombie appoints five new members. At that time, all elected members would be discharged from office.
The bill now advances to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.