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Saturday, January 16, 2016
Priorities not Politics for New Schools
By Rep Bob McDermott @ 2:42 AM :: 2338 Views :: Education K-12

PRIORITIES, NOT POLITICS, FOR NEW SCHOOLS

by Representative Bob McDermott, December 14, 2016

The Star Advertiser recently polled online readers regarding the $35 million new building at Campbell High School. As the day progressed, more participants voted for a new school or to increase portables and a new school. The bottom line remains: West Oahu is currently drowning under exigent overcrowding. It is the duty of all legislators, regardless of district, and governmental officials to determine a comprehensive plan based on priorities set through specific criteria, not politics.

Approving a new building at Campbell High School, even at the price tag of $35,000,000, is a first step to aiding our students and alleviating some of the pressures on the teachers. Notice that the Legislators who yelped the loudest are not speaking a peep about a their effort to build a new expensive high school in Maui with a 150 million dollar price tag – even though West Oahu is the DOE’s number one priority.

However, more needs to be done. And fast. A new school would give teachers and students a home. Currently teachers have no homerooms and float from room to room to teach overcrowded classes, wheeling their carts of books and supplies behind them.

West Oahu is growing at alarming rates with a 53 percent population increase over the next twenty years in Kapolei alone, and 11,750 new residential units being developed in Hoopili. Both Campbell High School and Kapolei High School are overflowing with over 5,000 students combined and average class sizes of 35 students with some reaching upwards of 45 students. An additional 500 to 600 students in Campbell High School are expected in the next three years.

So what is the State Legislature’s plan to address the population explosion on West Oahu? Why build a new High School in Kihei, Maui where enrollment figures do not merit it. The same dire need at Campbell/West Oahu is simply not present in Kihei. The metrics are clear; we need a new high school in West Oahu and not one in Kihei. Yet the Legislators are poised to push this 150 million dollar white elephant so politicians can put a feather in their hat – at the expense of students and teachers in an emergency situation.

My wish is that every student, be it on Maui or Oahu have a clean comfortable learning environment. However, given the finite resources of the state, the Legislature must be judicious and use enrollment and projected enrollment, teacher-to-student ratios and other tangible measurements in our planning and execution; choosing one school over another based on politics, arbitrary factors, insider back slapping and subjective perspectives is simply not fair.

Political capital should not be even a whisper when it comes to the needs of our students. It is a shame that it has come to that. The Legislature should fund Campbell / West Oahu, since that is the DOE’s number one priority.

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