Senate panel approves BOE chair's reappointment - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Senate panel approves BOE chair's reappointment

The crowded hearing room was a sure sign the Board of Education chairman's reappointment would be no easy task.

About 100 people submitted testimony to the Senate Education Committee and most wanted chair Donald Horner out.

"We are in strong opposition to Pastor Horner's reappointment," said Carolyn Golojuch of Rainbow Family 808, a pro-gay and lesbian rights group.

Opponents say Horner's role as BOE chair conflicts with his duties as a teaching minister for New Hope Church's Diamond Head church. New Hope strongly opposed Hawaii's same-sex law.

"That clearly states or exemplifies a conflict of interest that should not be allowable in the BOE," said Kathryn Xian, executive director of Girl Fest.

Advocates for the separation of church and state also opposed Horner's reappointment.

Mitch Kahle sued New Hope and other churches for underpaying the Department of Education millions of dollars for using school facilities. He says Horner's undue influence over DOE staffers contributed to the underpayments.

New Hope recently agreed to settle the suit by agreeing to pay $775,000.

"Hawaii's budget-strapped public schools were losing millions of dollars annually while subsidizing churches—many directly affiliated with Mr. Horner," Kahle said in written testimony.

But state lawmakers say they're convinced that Horner's personal religious views don't affect his job at the BOE. They voted unanimously to reappoint him.

"I have never at any point, ever, whatsoever felt he was trying to impose his religious views on our school system. And I assure you I would know it if here were trying to do it," said State Sen. Jill Tokuda, chair of the Senate Education Committee.

Some lawmakers say they took offense at the personal attacks.

"I am very discouraged by a lot of the testimony today. I am an advocate of free speech but not false speech," said state Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai.

Horner's reappointment now goes to the full Senate for approval. His next term would run through June 2017.


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