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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, November 13, 2001

School repair backlog becomes call to action

The idea of a massive "Marshall Plan" assault on the physical devastation of our public school system has taken on greater urgency in the wake of the just-completed special session of the Legislature.

Lawmakers, anxious to create jobs in Hawai'i's reeling economy, added $75 million to the $60 million they approved earlier this year for repair and maintenance projects. But as Education Writer Jennifer Hiller reported in Sunday's paper, that is still far short of the hundreds of millions needed for repairs and upgrading statewide.

There are more than 10,000 projects backlogged on a waiting list, and more being added every day. It is obvious that the pace of repair and maintenance is not even keeping up.

That's why a completely different approach is needed. Hawai'i obviously does not have the capacity to fix everything at once. But surely we can launch a construction effort that has the urgency and dedication of the effort to rebuild Europe. There are so many advantages here: It would immediately put money and energy into the economy; it would lay the physical groundwork for a complete overhaul of our education system, and it would act as a sign of hope and faith in our future.

The Legislature has granted special emergency powers to Gov. Cayetano that would allow him to fast-track projects and programs approved in the special session. There is no reason he cannot use those powers to launch our own Marshall Plan rebuilding effort for our public schools.

Let's get going.