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This year's legislative bills on education included more than 20 related to the governance of schools. Distinct similarities linked a number of them. Among the most popular targets were having the Governor appoint the Board of Education; substituting local boards for the present single statewide Board of Education; and increasing the autonomy and flexibility of student-centered schools, or substituting genuine charter schools for them. Although it is uncertain that any of them will survive, their number may alone signal public dissatisfaction.
The charter-student-centered school bills were rolled together into a single charter bill in the Senate - proposing "new century" schools - which the League Education Committee opposed. It had the virtue of adding a second authorizing agency to which prospective charters could apply for authorization (the Governor, in addition to the BOE/DOE) - and this is a crucial feature of strong charter legislation. But there were critical flaws in the proposed bill in its initial form.
First, the bill dictated governance arrangements, while the interest of autonomy and flexibility would leave new charters with the freedom to design their own governance structures. Second, the Governor was not only to be an authorizer of charter school, but s/he would be appointing the crucial initial boards that shaped and designed the new schools. And third, the proposed bill left existing collective bargaining agreements binding upon all charters. Thus, charter schools would have no more opportunity to assemble a genuinely likeminded faculty that other public schools do now. This, then, appeared one more critically flawed charter school law -intended as a corrective to the one we already have, "student-centered-schools."
The revised bill that is pending in the House as of this writing probably rendered the new century schools less innovative than the original bill would have permitted. It reduced the power of the governor vis a vis new century schools - and in so doing left the BOE as the sole channel to be pursued in launching such schools. (Upon the BOE's advice the governor would establish a new school by executive order; but evidently s/he cannot act without such advice.) Analysts have identified the leaving intact of the BOE's "exclusive franchise" to establish schools as perhaps the greatest single flaw in weak charter school legislation, and this is essentially what the bill now proposes. Moreover, several features are left somewhat muddy.
Collective bargaining agreements prevail except that unions and employers in a particular school may reach "agreements... entirely different that the standard contracts for teachers or school administrators." Elsewhere it appears that all appointments, transfers, discharges and job descriptions "shall be determined by the new century school and applicable personnel laws and collective bargaining in agreements." So can the new century school decide, for example, to suspend seniority transfer privileges? This is a crucial need of innovative schools. It also appears that each new century school shall be represented by the BOE "in communications with the governor and the legislature." If this bars lobbying on their own behalf, new century schools are left a lot weaker than other Hawaii schools.
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