Friday, February 2, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, February 2, 2001

Island Voices
State education: Just do it!

By D.G. "Andy" Anderson
Businessman and former state senator

I have seen, read and heard now for some 20 years the promises, the solutions and commitment to our kids’ education — during election years, that is — and never see it really all happen. Why?

Has it all been political shibai, just political promises? Say and preach what it takes to get elected, promise and promise and then find after you’re elected an excuse or excuses not to implement your promises? Is there any wonder why this state is in a constant state of flux, accusations and confrontation? Is there any wonder why politicians are not trusted?

Some of us in years past warned that Hawaii’s government had a champagne appetite with a beer budget, and the day would come we when could not afford all we were undertaking.

That day has come, I’m sad to say.

As to education, it’s time to go the distance. It’s time to make that investment now. Every and any delay only further puts our kids at a severe disadvantage in the K-12 school year cycle; they will never be given an opportunity to catch up.

Now the governor talks about giving free University of Hawaii tuition to kids with a B or better average. How in the world are they going to obtain this kind of grade with the lack of real financial commitment to the whole school system? By whole, I mean the facilities, the equipment, the curriculum and, yes, fair compensation to those who have been given this responsibility, the teachers.

How do these kids get educated to the degree of reading, writing and arithmetic to fill all those wonderful jobs that are being alluded to in our new and taxpayer-subsidized high-tech companies, or for that matter in any other field?

The governor further promises to expand another new program, the Preschool Program. No question, a worthy program. But are these kids then expected to go into a less-than-acceptable and inadequately funded traditional K-12 educational system? One step forward and two steps back? Are we not only further stretching the limited educational dollars, federal or state?

Do we still have an elected school board? Was it consulted or even made aware of these new responsibilities and program suggestions before being announced. Does it concur? Does it have the facilities, does it have the additional teachers, or is it premature and really politically driven? So many questions.

The governor is asking many of our teachers to work in substandard schools, many without adequate text books and supplies, many teaching a course that he or she is not trained to teach, at a salary range of some $29,000 to $58,000. Low by any standards in the private industry for the education required.

The reported different positions between the governor and the state Legislature as of today are definitely on a no-win collision course. The consequences should they not agree will be devastating for our state, and more directly for the kids.

I would urge the governor and the appropriate members of both houses to sit down immediately across the table, however difficult this may be for them, and work out a comprehensible and complete educational package once and for all, before all else — without the politics and rancor. We have had enough of that.

Every year that kids go without their proper education, every year they get automatically promoted when maybe they shouldn’t, they are put educationally and socially at a disadvantage, and their future is made just that much more difficult. Most certainly there won’t be many with B averages.

If our politicians have to set aside their "pet projects" to pay for this educational package, so be it. They made the promises to us; they bargained the salaries and terms as per the law at the bargaining table. Now do what you were elected to do: Honor your word and deliver on your promises.

The alternatives are not acceptable.

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