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CONSENT of the GOVERNED PROJECT

to change the county charter  and restore sovereignty to every citizen.

Recent quotes from three of our own county council members on their positions as elected officials are revealing as to how they view their proper roles : 

“it sometimes takes a law to change people's behavior”

 "Sometimes I have to be forced to do things that are right and I don't want to.”

 (I need) “to take charge, to lead our County, to define policy in the best interests of the people of our island. “

Frightening, isn't it !


Our county government lately has taken on 3 roles:

  • Administrative (such as determining how many police to hire, or where a road should go, or how to process garbage). This is an appropriate level of authority and responsibility for them to play.
  • Telling us what things we CAN NOT do i.e.:restricting our rights, more so every year
  • Taking our money: i.e.: taxes and fees

We the people have delegated out elected officials the power to be administrators, but we have NOT delegated them the power to restrict our lives and take our money without our permission.

The Consent of the Governed acts will restore forever this authority and sovereignty to the people of the Big Island.

 

 

IN PRESS
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Sunday
May222011

(May 2011) “Hawaii’s Public School System” PAtrick Walsh, HArvey tajiri, brian delima

We were honored to have 3 speakers for this event.

Questions and answers followed the addresses.

Patrick Walsh, former HPP Owners Assoc. president and Board of Education candidate 2008 whose platform emphasized decentralization, safety within the schools and accountability.

Harvey Tajiri, former County Council Chair, State Representative, Univ. of Hawaii Regent, and upper division lecturer in the Political Science Department at UH Hilo

Brian DeLima, former County Council Chair and newly appointed member State Board of Education

 

Patrick Walsh spoke first, raising the question of was the issue of education one of individuals or structure or society that really made the difference? He related how he had been educated in a demanding and rigid system in Ireland, but he would not bring that back to Hawaii. His 6 children were educated in his home. “Not home schooled, but more ‘self-schooled’ ”. He provided each child with a laptop, and fostered a safe environment where they each could focus but without a rigid curriculum. They all had the capability to focus for extended periods of time, because they were motivated to do so. One son said, “play is the best education”, and “fear lowers intelligence”. 3 sons were now all excelling in their in university studies. He commented how if we could institutionalize that same safe and focused learning environment, the system would be improved.

 

Harvey Tajirii spoke next, sharing his gut feelings about things he had felt for a long long time, based in part on events predating his experience in the legislature.  He had a degree in education, and made the point that ‘education is about education, not self-esteem”.  He had prepared a syllabus for his upper division political science class, but had to tear it up when he realized that the university students, juniors and seniors, did not know the difference between a governor and a mayor, nor the three branches of government. “They told me: congress, the legislature, and the senate.” He told them: “please don’t vote!” and was only half joking, but half serious too. They were unprepared for college from their high school education. “It’s not the students fault that they are not adequately educated”.

He was educated in Kaumana School, where one teacher taught 2 grades, each with 25 students. Today, student: teacher ratios are much less, but results are worse. In his day, after 6th grade, every student could read the local paper. Today, many cannot do so after 12th grade. He knows this also from his business experience, where frequently applicants with high school diplomas could not complete the job application without assistance. “The system is broken, and the solution is simple: we must allow the teachers to teach.” “Do we as a society, a community, parents politicians, bureaucrats allow this to happen, or not?”  He was very glad the Forum had given him the opportunity to bring this up for discussion, because “only you folks (the people) can do something about it.”

 

Brian DeLima spoke next, accompanied by a slide presentation about the current Department of Education. The school system dated back to the days of King Kamehameha V, a time when many people could speak several languages. The school boards were appointed, and the quality of schooling was generally high. With statehood in 1960, elected school boards were part of the state constitution and continued until last year 2010 when the people voted a new constitutional amendment to return to an appointed school board. Why did they do so? Because most parents, teachers, politicians and taxpayers were very unhappy with the school system.

The appointed board started only 6 weeks ago, and immediately sought to change the prevailing culture. They decreased their assigned staff from 11 to 3 (they were turned over to the superintendent of schools, their budget from $1.5 million to $300,000, they would meet 2 x monthly, and during business days to decrease overhead from travel and per diem expenses. In short, they were strictly focused on the business at hand. 

 

Their immediate goals were to focus on where the money was being spent, and an audit of policies. They wanted to transfer responsibilities to the schools. Now Act 51 was supposed to have done this already, so principals should be deciding who to hire and what to teach. However it was a general attitude by those who sought school changes that the culture of the Department of Education was not rigorous enough.

He subscribed to that opinion.

“I believe that success is a combination of discipline and hard work. Students are not plants. They must put in an effort to achieve success. Patrick’s kids didn’t succeed by sitting around looking at a computer screen, they put in the effort.” They must either spend the time to learn or they will not learn.

The Board would also seek to have a “zero tolerance” for disruptive behavior and bullying.

 

In his law practice he saw a lot of kids not doing well, in trouble with the law, and frequently not going to school or not doing the work.

“I am not going to put the blame on teachers. They are sick of taking the blame for that.”

(Teachers and others in the room applauded.)

 

He reviewed the status of the Department of Education: their budget, how it was allocated, enrollment. He pointed out the teacher to administrator ratio is 15:1 by his own calculations, not the 2:1 sometimes quoted. (DOE payroll is about 22,000, of which 56%(12,280) are teachers) The DOE made a special point to them of how many students were “special needs”, including a large percentage of which were so classified because of economic disadvantage. The Board was told that 69% of funds went to principals and the rest went for centralized expenses and service. The DOE claims 72% went directly to schools, and 87% of all positions were at schools. “I guess this shows how the DOE can adjust statistics to make a point.” “The audit will verify if this is so.” He pointed out that the biggest increase in educational spending in the last 20 to 30 years had been for special education and fringe benefits, totaling more than $1 billion. All else had increased only modestly.

 

He then reviewed trends in educational results. The USA was losing ground against the rest of the world in the educational achievements of our students. In 1973, about 25% of folks without a high school diploma could get a job. In 2011, that was a very small percentage only. Projections were that by 2018, 65% of all jobs in Hawaii would require a post secondary educational degree. Evidence showed that not enough high school graduates in Hawaii were prepared for work or college after high school. This was evident in the feedback from apprentice programs, employers and even the military. Hawaii applicants for the military had a 39% failure rate on the aptitude test, the highest failure rate in the nation. “It used to be that if a kid didn’t know what to do, they could join the Army, make a wage, learn a skill and get the GI Bill. That doesn’t work if you can’t even get in to the Army.”

 

 The Federal Race To The Top goals in Hawaii are that by 2025, 55% of all of working age would have college degrees. They had $70 million grant for this, not much in a $2 billion budget. This money would however allow training of principals and mentoring of new teachers, and also for “longitudinal data systems”. This was where every principal and teacher would have a computer “dashboard’ where every student was displayed, including their attendance, tardy record, grades and work progress. Comparisons would be made at the beginning and end of each year, and the teachers, principals and students would be “held accountable” for progress or lack thereof.

 

“We are basically going forward with Patrick’s entire platform of decentralization, accountability and safety.”

 

The panel the answered questions from the room:

“Shouldn’t the system foster a culture of excellence, by rewarding excellence and not rewarding poor performance, which is what seems in place today for both teachers and principals?”

DeLima: Unfortunately, the system depended on the collective bargaining agreements and certain laws. For example, the only way a principal could get a pay increase was by moving to a larger school. They were going to see how to change that. Also, by law, subordinates to the Superintendent could not make more than 80% of her salary. Currently she made $150,000, the lowest in the nation. Sometimes one would switch to becoming a principal and so going from a non-union to a union job would require a pay cut.  The legislature would need to be involved to change some of these things. Merit pay, sometimes discussed, was subject to collective bargaining.

 

“Shouldn’t students be flunked if they are not up to standards?’

All speakers: wide spread agreement that this should happen. Tajiri commented how he recalled 6 students flunking 6th grade, and every one ended up successful eventually. Now a day, “social promotions” don’t help. He recalled calling the HSTA and DOE to task on this very subject when he was in the legislature years ago. “The carrot is better than the stick, but sometimes you need the stick.” DeLima commented that at present Hawaii rarely did that, and there was resistance to it. The Board had discussed this, but there was as yet no consensus.

 

Several questions touched on how some students were disruptive, or didn’t want to be in school, and also how parents were a big part of the issue. One teacher from Keaau commented how her principal had told her the first day that “50% of parents don’t care about their kids education, and 50% do”. One commented on her experience in Harlem, where students were split into classes according to ability, and also split in to vocational tracks and college track, which was not the case in Hawaii.

 

DeLima suggested that extra resources should be given to the students who fell behind. He felt this was especially crucial at the early grades, because if “you get behind in first or second grade, it can take forever to make that up”. He felt this was especially important for parents to get behind, to seek tutors or extra help, which would be provided. Also, the law required being in school to age 18, but if students demonstrated they were not cooperative with that, that perhaps at age 16 some be excused and given the opportunity to get GED certificates. This would remove their disruptive presence from the schools, but would require a law change by the legislature.

 

Walsh commented that it was important to foster an environment where the student wanted to thrive. He suggested putting students at a certain achievement level with one teacher, and those having a slower pace be placed with another, but not in the same room. “You can’t expect all to learn at the same pace”. “Learning is impossible in a disruptive environment”. Also, “separate the boys from the girls. If they’re together, the teacher is the least interesting thing in the room.” He disagreed with providing money to the schools, as “money should follow the students, wherever they go.”

 

DeLima closed with commenting that we should view the effort as that of trying to turn a large supertanker around. The new appointed Board of Education had replaced the helmsman, but the ship was still bulky and slow to respond.  They could be contacted via their web page.