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Monday, November 23, 2009
Audit: DoE funding at risk over 3,800 bogus Hawaii teachers' licenses
By Andrew Walden @ 1:47 PM :: 7442 Views :: Energy, Environment

by Andrew Walden

While the Legislature has suddenly become invigorated at the possibility of throwing $50 million at the DoE, and the DoE, BoE, and unions attempt to grab even more, here is a problem which nobody is talking about. 

The 2008 Legislature, SCR83, SD1, ordered the Hawaii State Auditor to examine the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board (HTSB).  Taken out of the DOE in 2001 and made into an independent body, with even less accountability than the DoE, the HTSB supposedly oversees the licensing and re-licensing of all licensed Hawaii teachers.  According to the Audit Report Summary, released in February, 2009, "The (HTSB) failure jeopardizes federal funding for the Department of Education."

One former DoE teacher writes:

The initial legislation mandated a nine-member Board, with four members from the HSTA, three from the HGEA, one from the College of Education (the UHPA is an NEA subsidiary) and one member from the Board of Education. Counting the UHPA member, the NEA has a majority on the Board. Counting the HGEA, public-sector unions dominate the Board eight-to-one. This places the public-sector unions in a very convenient conflict of interest situation: any teacher whom the HGEA and HSTA find inconvenient can be terminated through revocation of her license, with no consequent obligation by the union to defend her. It is as though the Legislature has given to a board of lawyers the power to determine which clients lawyers on retainer must defend. Basically, the Teacher Standards Board empowers the HSTA to renege on its contractual obligation to defend teachers.

Most Audits make for dry reading.  Not this one.  The following is from the Audit Report Summary:

Our study found that the Hawai‘i Teacher Standards Board is in a state of confusion, unable to develop, administer, and deliver an effective teacher licensing program.  The board’s failure jeopardizes federal funding for the Department of Education (DOE), which is struggling to meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). The board has not applied new standards to teachers seeking an initial license. Moreover, the executive director assumed the board’s authority to approve new or initial licenses, which clouds the validity of approximately 3,800 licenses issued since 2003. Further, the board has no rules and procedures for appeals.

Seven years after assuming the licensing function, the board has neither an effective initial or renewal licensing program in place. The board exceeded its authority in extending licenses beyond the original authorization. It has been granting license extensions rather than renewing licenses beyond the two years set by the 2001 Legislature.

Without the statutory basis to extend licenses beyond 2003, the administrative rules extending licenses expiring in 2005, 2006, and 2007 are invalid. Furthermore, the board’s amended rules omit licenses expiring in 2004 and, thus, those could not receive an extension, have expired, and are rendered invalid. Because state laws require DOE teachers to be licensed, any teachers holding invalid licenses would be considered emergency hires and not highly qualified according to NCLB requirements.

A lack of oversight and poor management of two sole source contracts to develop an online application system have resulted in a waste of more than $1 million in teacher licensing fees. The board’s system contractor still has not delivered the online system and has, in fact, usurped the board’s access to its licensing database.

The board’s designation as an administratively attached agency has contributed to the lack of accountability and oversight. The executive director and the DOE each believes the other is responsible and accountable for certain financial and administrative responsibilities. Without a clear delineation of authority, the board has operated as an autonomous entity, void of any oversight by either the Board of Education or the DOE.

...

The 2001 Legislature transferred licensing duties from the DOE to an “independent” teacher standards board because of a perceived conflict of interest in the department’s dual role as employer and licensing agent. We conclude that creating an independent body composed mostly of teachers employed by the DOE with more than a consumer protection mission has not yielded sufficient benefits for the teaching profession and students it was meant to serve to warrant its continuation.

We recommend that the laws governing the standards board be repealed, in part, and modified, in part, to transfer responsibility for administering a teacher licensure program from the Hawai‘i Teacher Standards Board to the Board of Education.

The department and Board of Education opted not to provide responses. The standards board provided extensive comments and also provided information to clarify a number of points, which neither contradict nor change our findings and recommendations. While the standards board noted that there is a need to improve, it did not agree with our recommendations. The board’s responses do not address one of the report’s key findings—that the board has failed to develop, administer, and deliver on its core mission, an effective teacher licensing program.  As such, we stand by our report.

SB 3-3-09: Teacher standards board slammed

"The education departments at the University of Hawaii, Hawaii Pacific University and Chaminade University opposed a bill that would put the licensing function under the school board in testimony last month, said Guillentine, who received a National Association of Early Childhood Educators award as an outstanding teacher."

Harriet Tubman Agenda  Feb, 2009, Teacher Standards Board:

In the initial legislation, the Teacher Standards Board was a non-cost bill which proposed a temporary Board, which was to develop licensing criteria for new-hire teachers and then to go out of business. The initial legislation did not empower the Board to revoke licenses of teachers already in service or to charge teachers already in service for the privilege of being less secure in their jobs. 3000 teachers signed a petition against this expansion of the Board's powers.

The initial legislation mandated a nine-member Board, with four members from the HSTA, three from the HGEA, one from the College of Education (the UHPA is an NEA subsidiary) and one member from the Board of Education. Counting the UHPA member, the NEA has a majority on the Board. Counting the HGEA, public-sector unions dominate the Board eight-to-one. This places the public-sector unions in a very convenient conflict of interest situation: any teacher whom the HGEA and HSTA find inconvenient can be terminated through revocation of her license, with no consequent obligation by the union to defend her. It is as though the Legislature has given to a board of lawyers the power to determine which clients lawyers on retainer must defend. Basically, the Teacher Standards Board empowers the HSTA to renege on its contractual obligation to defend teachers.

---30---

LINK: Study on the Appropriate Accountability Structure of the Hawai`i Teacher Standards Board

LINK: http://www.htsb.org/  (Nice website, nobody home)

2009 HTSB Legislation: SB 142  Bill STATUS 

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