Abercrombie introduces his plan for education - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Abercrombie introduces his plan for education

Neil Abercrombie Neil Abercrombie
John Sosa John Sosa

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the state struggles with agonizing school furloughs and a widely criticized power structure, a man who wants to be Hawaii's next governor says he has a plan to make things better.

Even more than the economy Neil Abercrombie is making education a signature issue in his campaign and he says he'd spend whatever necessary to fix the problems.

"If there is still a furlough Friday question I'll bring all the parties together and we'll sit down and work it out until we come up with a solution," said Abercrombie in a press conference at his campaign headquarters. "We must ensure that in the controversy over child versus money, the child comes first."

People have complained to Abercrombie that the Department of Education has gotten too top heavy and he says he'd change that as governor.

"The last thing on Earth a principal and teacher needs in a school is a legislative committee trying to decide how many minutes a day they'll teach what subject," said Abercrombie.

In his education plan that he unveiled today he wants the superintendent to be part of the governor's cabinet and he wants to decentralize the system by giving principals more power to control their own school budget and programs and the ability hire and fire staff.

"The principals need to be the CEO's, the chief executive officers of their schools," said Abercrombie. "Instead of being top down it's going to be bottom up. It's going to be school centric."

"Personally I've worked on the mainland in an independent school system as a superintendent there and I do feel we have gotten top heavy in our centralization and we've lost sight of some of the things that need to happen to support schools," said John Sosa, Kaiser High School Principal.

Sosa says union contracts limit control, but if principals had more of a say it would make teachers and faculty more productive.

"If you have people that aren't on board with that or aren't meeting the standards you have, they know you have the final authority in terms of them being employed there.  Just that knowledge alone creates the atmosphere where people will work harder and be more committed to organization they are working for," said Sosa.

Board of Education Chair Garrett Toguchi is glad to see education made a priority but also says the ideas aren't new.  That the weighted student formula implemented in Act 51, the reinventing education act of 2004 gave principals the authority they wanted.  He also said policy setting and academic achievement still need to be left up to the state.

"It's a great kitchen cabinet of ingredients but that doesn't make a great meal. I want to see the recipe on how and where he finds the money to put it all together," said Toguchi.

"For generations, professional politicians have over-promised and under-delivered on education reform, and there's nothing here to show his approach will be any different. It's politics as usual," Lt. Governor Duke Aiona said in a statement. "However, my immediate focus remains on achieving a comprehensive solution to end teacher furloughs and return our students to the classroom."

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