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HSTA suggestions make sense

By Staff | Dec 17, 2015

The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) last week announced the introduction of an ambitious ten-part education omnibus bill designed to dramatically improve Hawaii’s school system.

The bill will be introduced during the upcoming 2016 legislative session.

It’s clear that new ideas and innovations are needed to improve education in Hawaii, and HSTA members – teachers – are the experts.

“It’s time to make education a priority in Hawaii,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee. “We all recognize the need for drastic change in Hawaii’s educational system. For too long, our community has had to suffer with crowded, 90-degree classrooms with leaky roofs, inadequate school supplies, buildings in disrepair and underpaid and overworked teachers.”

The measure calls for giving children opportunities for a well-rounded education rich in art, music, drama, physical education and Hawaiian Studies. This should be the focus – not standardized test scores.

The bill recommends reducing class sizes so that students can get individualized attention, and it proposes that all public high schools provide vocational, technical and career pathway programs to prepare students for the future.

HSTA calls for quality school facilities – no more classrooms with sweltering temperatures, collapsing auditoriums and leaky roofs – and seeks to fund rural and small schools equitably.

The measure calls for paying teachers in Hawaii salaries comparable to educators in districts with a similar high cost of living and providing teachers with the funds necessary to buy supplies for their classrooms.

Finally, to ensure that ALL children get off to a good start, the bill proposes providing funding so that children of all socio-economic backgrounds can have access to preschool.

To fund these ambitious improvements to Hawaii’s educational system, the HSTA is proposing a one percent increase in the state General Excise Tax (GET), as well as an increase in the food/excise tax and rental excise tax credits, so that the impact of the rate increase will be minimized for lower income families.

HSTA is also proposing that ACT 60, an income tax on the wealthy that expired last year, be reenacted.

“Every year, we say education is a priority, and yet we continue to do nothing about it. Meanwhile, Hawaii’s children are falling behind, as our schools are struggling to prepare students for 21st century jobs. We need to reinvest in our public schools to ensure that our children have the skills they need to compete in the worldwide economy. It is an investment in our future and the responsible thing to do,” Rosenlee concluded.

The omnibus bill was developed with extensive input and recommendations from teachers, parents and others involved in education. They are sound and deserve serious consideration by lawmakers who voice concerns about these issues every election season yet make little headway in improving education.