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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, March 1, 2002

Education reform makes headway

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Senators yesterday gave preliminary approval to their version of the education reform bill, advancing a measure that would augment the statewide Board of Education with seven locally elected boards.

A bill moving in the House, meanwhile, would abolish the BOE altogether and replace it with 15 local boards. Under both bills, voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment for the change to take effect.

Supporters say local school boards would raise the system's accountability and empower the community, but Gov. Ben Cayetano said restructuring is not a cure-all.

"To me, good education can take place in a barn," he said. "What you need are good teachers, principals who will provide inspirational leadership.

"This idea of having 15 different little boards of education is going to give way to 15 little empires, where everybody will need their own secretaries, their own clerks, their own this and their own that."

The Senate bill, which was approved yesterday by four committees and now goes before the full Senate, would have one member from each local school board to serve on a statewide board.

Senate Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto, D-16th (Moanalua, Salt Lake), said the state board would continue to set and oversee statewide educational policy and appoint the schools superintendent. The district boards' responsibilities would include monitoring schools' educational accountability and performance and prioritizing school construction and maintenance projects.

The House bill, besides breaking up the Board of Education, would create a commission to evaluate and recommend superintendent candidates to the governor.

Advertiser staff writer Robbie Dingeman contributed to this report.