Out of all 50 states that comprise the USA, the public education system in Hawaii is different than the other 49. It is the only one with a state-centralized education system. There are no school districts like there are in other states. As such, there is only one Board of Education with nine, term-staggered, governor-appointed members who set policies for all the public and public charter schools in Hawaii.
There are pros and cons to this model. For example, the state always gets high scores for education "equity" because all schools receive the same per pupil funding, and it's not determined by local property values. The same marginal allotment of financial resources; the same low pay for teachers, but hey, at least public education is equitably underfunded across the islands.
The snail's pace at which state bureaucracies move, and the political appointee framework of the BOE make the task of changing anything nearly as difficult as passing a state law. If you've ever tried to convince a local school board, like those one encounters on the mainland, to make a positive change, and tried the same with a state bureaucracy, you will understand the logger jam the latter imposes on the Hawaii public education system.
Undeniably a daunting challenge, cultural change *is* possible. If you have ideas for how to improve Hawaii's schools, share them with the Board of Education. Below are some of my letters to the BOE I share with you. If you would like to join any of these crusades, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stories of ongoing struggles to achieve equity in the Hawaii public education system for marginalized populations are on these pages:
End Systemic Racism in Hawai‘i DOE
Dear BOE, I’m continuing my efforts to end the systemic racism and classism in the Hawai‘i Department of Education that is very real, and hurting our keiki. This problem will not disappear until the BOE enacts Policies and Hawai‘i Administrative rules ensuring equitable family engagement opportunities for students whose parents are uneducated and/or non-English-proficient...
(read letter below)
Give Parents the Right to Their Own Assistant
English-challenged public school parents are bullied by the DOE, and there's no system of redress. What is the BOE is going to do about accountability, fostering true, authentic family engagement, and giving English-challenged parents the right to have an assistant help them.
How To Close the SpEd Achievement Gap
These strategies improve outcomes for struggling students. Why won't the Hawaii Department of Education implement them and the Board of Education require them?
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