Support multiple school districts
By Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters
Gov. Linda Lingle has recently repeated her call to break up Hawai'i's enormous, single public school district into smaller units.
Hawai'i could dramatically improve its public school system by supporting the governor in her attempt to end Hawai'i's reign as the only state that does not provide its citizens with a choice in the public school system their children must attend.
Multiple school districts would go a long way toward improving education by offering parents a choice in the public education provided to their children where currently they have none.
Instituting multiple school districts would also provide schools with the proper incentives to compete for students by offering a quality education.
In most of the country parents have educational options because they can move to the district whose schools best serve their children's needs, and they can move away from a failing school district to a better one.
In Hawai'i, if parents are dissatisfied with the direction of their public schools and cannot afford to send their children to private school they are left with no option short of boarding a plane for the Mainland.
A single district with a statewide monopoly on public education can afford to take students for granted.
Research by the Manhattan Institute and by Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby shows that areas with smaller school districts produce significantly better student outcomes.
Decentralized school districts would also better connect communities with their local schools. Local communities feel separated from a gargantuan statewide school district that is not accountable to their needs.
Communities benefit from improved school districts in the form of real estate values and community pride. Schools would benefit by being part of a community more directly invested in its local school's success.
Such invested communities would provide greater support for schools and would be far more likely to pass bond issues and school levies.
Voters in Hawai'i would do well to support Gov. Lingle in changing the structure of the state's public school system.
Jay P. Greene is a senior fellow and Marcus A. Winters is a research associate at the Manhattan Institute's Education Research Office.