The state Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to approve Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s appointment of retired banker Don Horner to a second term on the state Board of Education.
Horner was one of Abercrombie’s initial appointments to the volunteer board, after a 2011 constitutional amendment voters approved that did away with an elected school board. He is chairman of the board and its Audit Committee.
The Senate Education Committee had vetted Horner’s nomination earlier this month and, following a three-hour public hearing, recommended his reappointment for a term through mid-2017.
At that hearing, Horner’s nomination was met with opposition particularly from gay rights activists and atheist groups because of his position as a volunteer pastor for New Hope Diamond Head. He teaches a weekly Bible class.
Opponents criticized Horner for being affiliated with a church that opposed same-sex marriage and was one of several churches sued for allegedly shortchanging public schools on rental fees.
“Chair Horner reiterated that while he has never attempted to hide his religious affiliation, he made clear that he has never imposed it upon our school system through his position on the Board of Education or in board policy,” Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, told her colleagues ahead of the floor vote.
She also shared some of Horner’s accomplishments as chairman of the school board, including implementation of a first-ever joint BOE-DOE strategic plan; a plan to ensure all schools are accredited within the next five years; increased accessibility to the board through stakeholder meetings, office hours and a hotline; and implementation of a new charter school law to increase performance and accountability of charter schools.
“I look forward to a second term because there is much more work to be done,” Horner said after the 25-0 vote.
The vote simultaneously approved nine other gubernatorial nominees for various state boards and commissions, including Jim Williams to a second term on the Board of Education.