Chair Luke, Vice Chairs Johanson and Nishimoto, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii offers the following comments on SB 2423, SD2. that would authorize the Department of Education to accept gifts or donations on behalf of the Department, individual schools or classes and permit public schools to engage in fundraising and charitable activities, based on criteria established by the State Board of Education. The bill limits the charities to those that have a 501 (c) (3) Federal tax exempt status and are either registered with the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs or granted an exemption to such registration
After hearing the bill on February 7, the Senate Education Committee found that such partnerships and project based learning experiences are aligned with the Department’s policy of (Character Education), with the stated purpose of civic engagement and service learning.
Research has shown that the most valuable civic lessons are learned outside of the classroom,12 and we endorse this concept. We also believe there is much value (and enjoyment) for a student who has a real-life educational experience in goal-setting, handling money, project management, etc. such as a fundraising activity.
To protect students, their families, schools and the State from unexpected problems, we fully support the Department of Education and the Board of Education developing criteria for the fundraising or charitable event, which would provide needed guidance for the broad Policy 1200-1.41 (Employee, Contractor and Volunteer Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policy. But these criteria have to be broader than whether the event contributes to student learning, as specified in the bill. Due diligence is required to verify the tax exempt status, plan for compliance with State laws and regulations, project fundraising expense and net proceeds to the school, as well as verifying that the planned activity satisfies the Character Education goal
If these criteria were in place, it would be easier to endorse this bill and feel assured that the serious
concerns raised by the State Ethics Commission have been addressed. State ethics laws should be front and center in the task of preparing fundraising criteria. Don’t we need established procedures to select a 'worthwhile' cause? Shouldn’t ‘advertising’ of private businesses or gifts of equipment be prohibited?
League is also concerned that not all students will be able to participate in these fund raising or charitable activities because of parental objections to the mission of certain organizations or the socioeconomic environment in their community. And while such objections are based on parental values, they can produce a stigma for the student who is not allowed to participate in activities with classmates. While students cannot be required to participate in a fund-raiser and they cannot be required to raise a certain amount of money or to sell a required number of items a stigma may ensue because they compare themselves (or are compared by their classmates) to participating students. We hope that the proposed criteria will speak to how to provide an equitable learning experience when a student is not able to participate in the project.
A comprehensive assessment that includes guidance from the State Ethics Commission is called for before such criteria are finalized. Finally, the LWV Hawaii supports the consideration of core education policy values of choice and equity for all students when setting these kinds of school policies. A basic tenet of a public school education is inclusion for all.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.
1 Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching, 2014. Found at: cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-outside-theclassroom
2 Harvard Graduate School on Education (2001). The Benefits of Service-Learning, Vol 17, No. 1, Jan-Feb 2001