Lingle repeats call to dismantle BOE
Gov. Linda Lingle devoted a significant portion of her speech to education, which has been a hot topic since teacher furloughs began on Oct. 23.
She said she would use $10 million in federal stimulus money to expand science, technology, engineering and math programs in public schools.
She also repeated her call for a constitutional amendment for voters in November to bring the state schools superintendent into the governor's Cabinet instead of under the state Board of Education, which she would eliminate.
Lingle said she still believes, as she did when she took office seven years ago, that structural changes are needed to the state Department of Education because the status quo "will never produce more than mediocre results."
She said the public could hold the governor accountable if the schools superintendent is in the governor's Cabinet and the statewide school board is eliminated.
Educators who oppose the idea say that having a superintendent under the governor's control would politicize the job. Others defend the elected school board because it is politically autonomous from the governor and the Legislature and can lobby on behalf of students and public education.
"Why would this be better for the children?" said Karen Knudsen, vice chairwoman of the school board. "In the past when a governor has recommended massive cuts, the board has advocated and gone to the Legislature directly and we are able to advocate for education."
Knudsen said if the board were dismantled and the superintendent were an appointee of the governor, that advocacy position would be eliminated.
"There would be no speaking out," she said. "You would do what the governor demands."
Garrett Toguchi, the chairman of the school board, called the governor's remarks "pessimistic."
Toguchi said Hawai'i's public schools have made steady progress under federal No Child Left Behind testing.
"I'm extremely disappointed that the governor is intentionally perpetuating a false and negative picture of Hawai'i's public schools to try to gain support for unproven educational initiatives she proposed today," he said in a statement.