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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lingle education ideas should get close look

There are many pieces of the public education puzzle in Hawai'i, ranging from the poor state of public school facilities through a textbook shortage.

But one aspect that keeps coming up is this: a shortage of qualified teachers and poor morale among those on the front lines of education.

Gov. Linda Lingle has outlined a smart and proactive set of ideas that would directly target the morale and retention issues. These ideas deserve full and serious consideration by the Legislature.

Lingle proposes to:

  • Allow the DOE to rehire retirees for up to two years without affecting their pensions. This has worked well before.

  • Offer "scholarships" to offset tuition costs for would-be teachers who agree to stay in the system for 10 years.

  • Create a new category of qualified emergency certified teachers to supplement those who have gone through the regular certification process.

  • Pay nationally certified teachers an annual $10,000 bonus if they will teach three years in underperforming schools.

    As sensible as these ideas seem, they will require a fair amount of dialogue with the teachers' union and the Legislature.

    For instance, the union will be reluctant to cooperate on the new category of emergency certified teachers. It has worked hard to "professionalize" the teacher ranks by insisting on a fairly rigid certification process. But the teacher shortage is a reality; this is an area where some bending by the union might be in order.

    On the other side, Lingle may have to do some bending on her declaration that Hawai'i's assessment standards are "ridiculously high."

    Yes, our standards are high, but that should be a source of pride. Lingle proposes lowering the standards so more schools will be able to show progress.

    Rather than lower the standards, the state should work for greater flexibility in the manner in which schools are measured, such as not judging an entire school by the performance of a particular sub-group.

    In all, Lingle's ideas ensure that education will receive first-rank attention at the Legislature this year.