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Sunday, August 3, 2014
Without Abercrombie, Education Reform a Political Orphan
By Andrew Walden @ 9:31 PM :: 6489 Views :: Education K-12, Politicians

by Andrew Walden

With Neil Abercrombie down 18% in the latest Star-Advertiser-Hawaii News Now poll, education reform advocates in Hawaii's business community are panicking.  Abercrombie has been their political sponsor; the man who may defeat him in the August 9 Democratic Primary, Senator David Ige, has sold his soul to the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA).

In an August 3, 2014 Star-Advertiser column, P-20 Council member Mitch D'Olier opens up the negotiations with the Duke Aiona and Mufi Hannemann campaigns. 

D'Olier complains: "The candidates for governor have been troublingly silent on public education issues to this point in the campaign."  He is being diplomatic--Ige's campaign has been anything but silent.  Again and again Ige has sworn himself to carry out the HSTA's full anti-reform agenda.  In a July 29, 2014 "Open Letter to HSTA members" Ige reiterated points he has highlighted again and again during the campaign:

  • I am opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment to allow public funds to be spent in private preschools....
  • The Board of Education, which is appointed by the Governor, has failed to provide effective leadership....
  • I will work with the Board to immediately place a hold on the components of the Educator Effectiveness System....

Obviously D'Olier's commentary is directed towards Aiona and Hannemann.  He explains, "To make sure we choose the right candidate for governor for the future of our state's public education system, I would respectfully ask six questions:

  • Do you support the new initiatives of the Board of Education/Department of Education of requiring performance feedback through the implementation of a teacher and principal evaluation system based in part on student results?
  • Do you support the new BOE/DOE initiatives of a set of statewide Common Core standards and graduation requirements that will raise the bar that ensures our children are educationally prepared for 21st century employment?
  • Do you support the BOE/ DOE's new strategic plan that sets out clear objectives and accountability for student achievement and staff development support, as well as school infrastructure improvements that would reduce state office administrative costs and put more money in the classroom?
  • Do you support the new BOE/DOE policy of requiring all public and charter schools to be fully accredited (same as private schools)?
  • Do you support the appointed board's overall direction and positive achievements, or do you favor a return to the old elected board?
  • Do you support the proposed constitutional amendment to allow a public-private partnership for delivering preschool education to Hawaii's keiki? At whatever level of funding the Legislature decides, a public-private system is 50 percent less expensive than a fully DOE-run system. The proposed amendment states this would not create a voucher system."

There will be no response until August 10 because Aiona and Hannemann face a binary choice:  If Ige wins the Democratic Primary, they want to win the support of the education reform advocates in Hawaii's business community.  If Abercrombie wins, they want to win the support of HSTA.  Polls show Abercrombie losing by as much as 18%.  One might be tempted to jump the gun, but as John Waihee recently pointed out, polling in Hawaii has a long history of deceptions as large as 18%.

Meanwhile, the dynamics of education reform can change.  One of Abercrombie's first moves on the proposed pre-K voucher program was to inform church-run preschools that they would be excluded from eligibility unless they conformed their curriculum to Abercrombie's demands.  The churches refused and Abercrombie cost the constitutional amendment the support of tens of thousands of church-going voters.  With Abercrombie and Attorney General David Louie out of the picture, education reform advocates can reinterpret the rules for vouchers to open the door to church preschools.

Do they have what it takes to build the new education reform coalition?

---30---

Background:

Temptation: Offered Millions, Catholics Reject Abercrombie's Attempt to Re-Write Curriculum

Ige Renews Oath of Fealty to HSTA

Ige's Dirty Deal With HSTA: Phony 'Procedural Mixup' Dooms Key Education Measures

Quid pro Quo? HSTA Endorses Ige for Governor

 

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