Voters will go to the polls this November to decide if they want an appointed Hawaii State Board of Education to replace the current elected one. But they will have to vote without knowing how members of an appointed board would be selected.

Gov. Linda Lingle today vetoed House Bill 2377, which outlined the process for appointing education board members in the event voters decide they want an appointed board.

Lingle would have preferred a bill that gave the governor the power to appoint the superintendent of education and abolished the board altogether. She proposed exactly that during Furlough Fridays negotiations — even at first making the release of funds dependent on the Legislature passing such a bill. She didn’t get the bill she wanted.

Lingle’s official concern about the legislation that passed was that it “amends the Board of Education composition and member selection process in a manner that may not ensure the Board will be composed of members who reflect the best interests of the public and who understand the role of setting public education policies.”

Lingle has historically had a problem with the selection council format of appointing members of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, which this process is modeled after, said Rep. Roy Takumi, who helped sponsor both the ballot proposal and the bill outlining the appointment process.

He said legislators had heard from community members who had their own concerns. Many feared making a virtually overnight shift from having full elective control over their education board members to giving that power to a single individual (the governor), and that was why lawmakers opted to add a vetting process to the appointments. If the future Legislature and governor had had a problem with the selection process, it could have been changed relatively easily, he added.

“It’s going to be in the law, not in the constitution, so the Legislature could easily change that,” he said. “A new governor could come in and propose that we do away with it. Laws are meant to be implemented and amended, repealed and changed. It’s a breathing instrument here, not a static thing.”

If voters opt for an appointed board, there will be no immediate change in the status quo, because there is no enactment plan for the constitutional amendment. In other words, elected members will keep their seats after November’s election until further notice.

The most likely next step is that lawmakers act in the next legislative session beginning in January. Because the appointment process bill received wide approval this year, Takumi said it is possible lawmakers could fast-track the issue in January and put it on the new governor’s desk almost immediately. It could become law as early as within a week or 10 days of session opening. On a regular timetable, it could take months to become law.

“That would be the most expeditious manner of dealing with it,” Takumi said of the fast-tracking plan. “Whoever is in the Legislature would work with the new governor to figure out how they would like to appoint the board so that on the first day of session, a bill could be introduced that is ready to go.”

Thoughts on the veto? Will this change how you vote on the proposed constitutional amendment in November? Join our elected vs. appointed education board discussion. To read more education news throughout the day, follow me on Twitter: @ktpoy.

About the Author