NEW PROCEDURES WILL HINDER CLIENTS
On Feb. 23, the Legislature held an informational briefing with the Department of Human Services to discuss the creation of a new Eligibility Processing Operations Division.
DHS testified that it plans to close 32 eligibility offices and eliminate 232 state positions. The department claimed this will result in cost savings, streamline eligibility determinations and increase productivity. The only two offices left will be in Honolulu and Hilo, and they will have to process all of the state's eligibility for public assistance programs. Very little face-to-face contact will be required. Residents will be encouraged to apply online or by phone, fax or mail.
Thank you to the courageous eligibility workers and supervisors who testified against DHS and expressed their concern that the new system would be a huge mistake.
They raised concerns about servicing non-English-speaking clients and the loss of the personal connection between eligibility and connecting applicants to other DHS services.
DHS cannot continue cutting its way out of this economic crisis. We must pass bills that will generate revenue to maintain the safety net for Hawai'i's people.
Debbie Shimizu, LSW | Executive director, National Association of Social Workers, Hawai'i Chapter
BOARD OF EDUCATION
STUDENT MEMBER NEEDS VOTING RIGHTS
The student member of the state Board of Education is the official representative of more than 178,000 public school students in Hawai'i. He represents their interests and welfare, and is the true voice for, of and by the students, and yet has no vote on the board.
It is imperative that the Legislature support and pass SB 2350 and HB 86, bills that would grant the student member voting rights. HB 86 is stuck in the House Judiciary Committee; the bill has not received any opportunities to be heard and the students have most certainly not been heard.
Members of the Hawaii State Student Council unrelentingly continue to fight for voting rights, but are being ignored by the legislators.
I urgently and humbly appeal to parents, teachers, and students. Please contact your legislators and demand that they support SB 2350 and give HB 86 a hearing immediately. Demand that they care for our students — our children — and listen to them, if education is to improve and Hawai'i is to prosper in the future.
Mark Dannog | Waianae
FEWER DAYS, BUT MORE HOMEWORK
I have gotten feedback from students who say they are receiving a ridiculous amount of homework that is not being explained in class. They are having trouble trying to learn the material themselves. These (furlough) days have really affected students of Hawai'i and students will not reach their highest potential this school year.
Hawai'i's education is one of the lowest-ranked in the nation. Hawai'i schools are in "deep kimchi" when it comes to meeting national standards. I feel bad that we are represented on the bottom of the chain. As a senior, I was shocked about the passing of furlough days. Cutting off 17 days of school is too much.
However, my perspective has changed. No matter what Gov. Lingle or anyone decides now, we have to stick with the furloughs. It hurt many students, but there is no way things can get better now.
Students need consistency in their lives and I'm sure everyone has adapted to this schedule. Ido thank you for giving me the opportunity to work on my senior project on furlough Fridays.
Then again, thank you for costing me my full education.
louisse gayle aque | Honolulu
ELIMINATE SPORTS; GET BACK TO BASICS
Want to end school furloughs quickly? The solution is connected to our sports programs.
Every school desires to field teams for all types of sports so their students may participate and include this experience to his/her resume to enhance higher education opportunities, and perhaps for the elite, an opportunity to participate at the professional level. Downsizing and even eliminating the sports programs could redirect resources needed for classroom time and teachers' salaries.
At the very least there will be immediate reaction and outcry from the community. Initiating furlough days was a relatively easy course of action because it was quick. The initial outcry was shortlived. High school competition continued even though school was out.
Extracurricular sports programs are beyond the basic educational opportunities provided by the public schools. Physical education classes already are programmed into the school curriculum. The lessons and character developed from competitive sports participation continue through intramural sports.
The scope of services provided by taxes must be curtailed to focus on priorities and the basics.
Roy Miyamoto | Honolulu
STATE LESS APPEALING PLACE TO RAISE FAMILY
I am a stay-at-home mother of three. My husband works full time and I work part time from home.
My husband and I chose to raise our family here in Hawai'i, and that was really important to us when we became parents.
But with the state of the economy it is becoming less appealing to us.
With the public school system suffering the loss of instructional days and the governor holding our state refunds to balance out the budget, it makes it harder to balance out the pros and cons of living here.
We love being able to raise our children where we were born, with the beauty of Hawai'i and the aloha spirit, but it is really frustrating.
I feel like the public is being left out of the decision-making process. I know there are other things that can be addressed to make things work.
I know Gov. Lingle is doing what she thinks is best, but as a mother, taxpayer and resident of Hawai'i, it is making it so much harder to raise our children here.
Kahea Soberano | Honolulu