Caldwell: The city could do a better job running schools than the state

Caldwell: The city could do a better job running schools than the state
Some 13,700 teachers are employed in Hawaii's public school system. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu’s mayor has a proposal that he says will improve education on Oahu, but it’s not going over well with the state Education Department.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell believes the city could do a better job than the state overseeing public schools ― and he wants a task force to look into the proposal.

He argues most cities in the nation successfully run their own school systems, and that each county in Hawaii is unique and has different needs.

“Mayors and county councils are much closer to the people,” he said. “I think perhaps if the school system was managed by the local entity, there would be more reaction to the problems and addressing those problems.”

Hawaii has the nation’s only statewide public education system, with a single, centralized office overseeing all public schools. Because of that, Hawaii’s schools system is the ninth-largest in the country.

The single system also means that Hawaii schools are largely funded by legislative appropriations, not property taxes.

A switch to a city school system would almost certainly require a change in how property taxes are allocated on Oahu. And that could trigger concerns about some schools getting more money and others getting less.

The teacher’s union, education department, and board of education all strongly oppose the proposal, which is before legislators. They say a statewide system ensures equal resources at all schools.

“I think that it distracts from what has been a very cohesive and intentional planning process of equity and excellence across the state,” said schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. “We’ve already made a decision about the direction we’re going in.”

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