Lingle Proposes Structural Reform of Hawaii School System

By Wendy Osher

Governor Linda Lingle is calling for structural reform of Hawaii’s school system. In her State of the State Address, Lingle announed a proposal to introduce a constitutional ammendment calling for the transition of the Department of Education into a cabinet level department. Under the plan, the superintendent of schools would be hired by the next governor, “…so all of us will know clearly ‘where the buck stops’,” said Lingle.

“It is time for Hawai‘i to make the Governor accountable for public education,” Lingle continued.

 

A press release issued by the Governor’s office today said, “The current school system lacks clear lines of authority, responsibility and accountability. Because the Governor, the Legislature, the Board of Education, the Department of Education, and the Superintendent of Education all have roles to play, the public does not know who to hold accountable for consistently mediocre performance.”

Specifically, this bill amends the State Constitution to make the Department of Education into a “principal department of state government” (i.e., a cabinet department). The State Constitution provides generally that a principal department has its leadership (whether an executive officer or a board/commission) nominated and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appointed by the Governor. According to the measure, a board of education becomes unnecessary under the proposed structure.

Lingle said the measure would make the Governor directly accountable for the condition of public education within the State, as the Governor will be held accountable for his or her selection of superintendent, and the subsequent educational performance under that superintendent.

The measure states, “This will improve the State’s ability to effectively and expeditiously manage educational resources and execute policies and procedures.”

A companion measure is being introduced to make the necessary statutory amendments that set out the specific structural details of the proposed new relationship between the Governor, the superintendent, and the Department of Education.

Provisions in that measure would repeal the powers and duties of the publicly elected Board of Education; establish the Department of Education within with state administration to serve as a cabinet-level department; and authorize the Governor to appoint the superintendent of education, subject to confirmation by the State Senate.

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