A proposal to enlarge the Hawaii Board of Education from nine to 11 members took at step forward Wednesday by gaining the approval of the Senate Education Committee.

The bill would also increase the terms of BOE members from three years to four and make most of the terms run concurrently with those of the governor, who appoints the members.

“There is a major flaw in the way the current process works,” Joan Lee Husted, retired executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said in written testimony. “How can we hold the governor accountable for the actions of the Board of Education and the Department of Education if he does not have the power to appoint the majority of Board of Education members?”

Left, Senator Laura Thielen and Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland listen to testimony during education and  Health committee meeting, Capitol Room 229.  4 feb 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Sen. Laura Thielen, left, and Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland listen to testimony during Education and Health Committee hearing Wednesday at the Capitol.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Currently, the governor can appoint BOE members when their three-year terms are up, but most of their terms don’t run concurrently with the governor’s term.

“Let’s keep the accountability lines clean and clear,” Husted said.

The bill was proposed by Sens. Suzanne Chun Oakland, Donovan Dela Cruz, Michelle Kidani and Breene Harimoto, who contend it would make the BOE more responsive to citizens and hold the current governor accountable to the actions of the BOE.

The bill would also:

• Require that at least two of the four at-large members have business management experience, while at least one at-large member be from a neighbor island and one must have experience as a school principal or vice-principle.

• Add a second non-voting student member elected by the Hawaii Student Council.

• Adjust BOE members’ terms so that six would end Dec. 31 of every gubernatorial election year. The other five would end Dec. 31 of each year following a gubernatorial election year. The terms of current members would terminate June 30 this year or next year.

The Board of Education was created as part of the Hawaii State Constitution in 1959. The board originally had 14 members– two from each school district – and was appointed by the governor. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1964 that gave them the power to elect BOE members.

After that, Hawaii voters twice rejected constitutional amendments to make the BOE an appointed board. But in 2010, Hawaii voters passed an amendment to give the BOE appointment power back to the governor. The 2010 amendment also decreased the number of members from 14 members (two per district), to seven members (one per district) and two at-large members.


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