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Bill adding a teacher to the state Board of Education advances

FILE - The Father Damien Statue welcomes visitors to the Hawaiʻi State Capitol on Jan. 18, 2023.
Sophia McCullough
FILE - The Father Damien Statue welcomes visitors to the Hawaiʻi State Capitol on Jan. 18, 2023.

House Bill 556 proposes adding a teacher and a school administrator representative on the state Board of Education — both in nonvoting capacities. Members of the House education committee discussed the measure Tuesday.

For education committee members, it would add key voices to the 11-member board — which already includes student and military representatives.

Having a seat on the BOE is a priority for the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association, which represents 13,700 public school educators in the state.

"We are the foundation of education," said Laverne Moore, teacher and HSTA lobbyist.

"We are the ones who are in the classroom daily, we know what is going on from preschool to high school. And if you notice, the Board of Ed is not here to answer questions," said Moore.

"Why is it that teachers do not have a say on something that is so critical? We are educating the future of tomorrow, we should be there giving input."

Previous attempts to get a teacher on the Board of Education weren't successful, held back by the roadblock of many arguing that both a teacher and school administrator on the BOE is a potential conflict of interest.

Opponents of the bill said there would be conflict when the board discusses contract negotiations for both parties.

Currently, teachers are part of collective bargaining group five, while administrators are part of group six.

"My concern is from the collective bargaining standpoint. And when we negotiate contracts, those are confidential negotiations," said Brenna Hashimoto, director of the state Department of Human Resources Development.

"And it would be problematic to have members of those employee organizations present on the other side of the table when we're negotiating or discussing the employers' proposals or negotiating strategy."

Advocates say that a possible option could be to have lawmakers mandate the new additions to recuse themselves from any contract discussion items. However, Hashimoto told committee members that could also be problematic.

HB 556 still needs to pass two more committees before advancing to the Senate.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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