ConAm Public Education Funding: 70% of Voters Still Said "No"
The Hawai’i Supreme Court invalidated the Constitutional Amendment question for public education funding on the Nov 6th General Election ballot. But, 85 percent of voters made choices, anyway.
More than 340-thousand voters marked their ballots for the Constitutional Amendment question on whether or not to allow the legislature to impose a surcharge on investment property to fund public education. More than 70 percent voted “No.” State Department of Education superintendent Christina Kishimoto.
“It is important to have a highly prepared, certified, well-paid teacher in every single one of my classrooms. As we move forward, we really need to look at how we’re going to identify additional funds to address the competitive pay challenge that we have.”
Jill Tokuda served in the state senate for 12 years and chaired the Education, Higher Education and Ways and Means Committees. She’s also a mother of two public school students.
“In the department of education, you have almost $2-billion from the state general fund and federal funds coming in to support our schools and I think the bottom line is, everyone’s gotta hunker down and be creative to figure out how you’re gonna stretch every dollar as far as you can to make sure that the needs of our schools and our students are met.”
Governor David Ige is committed to provide more public school funding once the personal income tax portion of the state’s tax modernization program is implemented later this year.
“We will have more than $4-and-a-half-billion generated off our new tax system and I’ve always believed that that new tax system will give us better data analytics that will generate additional revenue which could be applied to our public school system.”
Governor Ige also supports generating revenue using more than 250 public school properties statewide. Tokuda, who ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor this year, says the legislature provided the authority to use public school lands years ago.
“In the first 5 years, we lose over half of our teachers. Let’s look back to the old days when we actually had workforce housing and teacher cottages. It was about looking holistically at what it took to build stronger communities and what people needed to survive and all the cost of living issues that people were dealing with.”
But, Hawa’i’i State Teachers Association president, Corey Rosenlee, says increasing teacher’s pay is the key issue.
“We still have a thousand classrooms without a qualified teacher and one-third of our students are being taught by subs and emergency hires. This must be our moral imperative because at the end of the day, this is about one thing. This is about our keiki.”
Tokuda says the state tried teacher mentorship, small bonuses and scholarships but nothing worked. She says all state departments have tight budgets that require directors to identify and fix internal inefficiencies and re-direct money. Tokuda says the same goes for DOE Superintendent Kishimoto.
“She needs to be creative and she needs to be aggressive and I think just sticking the hand out and asking for more money is not going to be the answer and there’s many resources and many avenues out there that she should be pushing for.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.