The Hawaii State Teachers Association’s proposed tax increase may have died in the Legislature this week, but efforts to rally support for it have not.

The Board of Education listened to more than an hour of testimony Tuesday from a dozen teachers and several high school students who showed up to support the HSTA bill dubbed “Schools Our Keiki Deserve.”

“This is not going to be a one-year fight,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said after the meeting.

Teachers rallied at the Capitol last month to raise support of their union's proposed legislation.
Teachers rallied at the Capitol last month to raise support of their union’s proposed legislation. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The union’s proposed omnibus bill called for raising the state’s general excise tax by 1 percent to fund a number of education reforms — from installing air conditioning in all classrooms in the state over the next five years to establishing universal preschool, reducing class sizes, and increasing the amount of time spent on arts education.

Some of the proposals are still moving forward as individual bills.

Although the teachers spoke about a number of the issues that HSTA addressed in its bill — from challenges meeting the needs of special education students to the high cost of living in Hawaii — one of the most frequently raised concerns was about the amount of standardized testing currently mandated in schools.

Radford High School teacher Andy Jones told the BOE that he spent as much as 15 percent of class time last year preparing his 11th grade students for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

“Spending that much time on a test is simply too much time,” Jones said.

The HSTA bill called for capping the number of days that students are required to spend taking standardized tests at three days a year, and making it easier for parents to opt kids out of tests. A test day would be any day when students spend more than three hours taking or preparing for standardized tests.

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