During her eight years in office Governor Lingle has repeatedly reaffirmed her commitment to ensuring all children in Hawai`i receive a quality public education in schools that are safe, where qualified teachers are setting high standards for their students, and where graduates are ready to begin a career or enter college. As a result of the foundations laid during the 2003-2010 time frame, Hawai`i was successful in winning the prestigious Federal Race to the Top Award, setting us on a path to substantially improve the delivery of public education in Hawai`i. The steps leading to this achievement included:
2004 Education Reform Initiative
Our students are just as smart as students in other jurisdictions and our teachers are just as capable. But year after year our schools were not meeting basic national achievement benchmarks. The system for the delivery of public education was failing. To address this, Governor Linda Lingle launched the CARE (Community Aligned to Reform Education) Initiative to revamp the basic structure of the Department of Education.
The key principles of this effort included:
• performance-based contracts for teachers and principals;
• reallocation of the education budget into the classroom so that 90 percent of the DOE’s money is spent in the schools;
• assigning state funding support to each school child and allowing the child to take those funds with them to the school they attend; and
• locally elected school boards so that decisions are made in the community by parents and school officials who know the needs of that community.
Although locally elected school boards was not enacted by the Legislature, many of the Governor’s key proposals, such as performance contracts and reallocating money to the schools, were incorporated into Act 51 of 2004, the Reinventing Education Act.
2005 Education Reform Initiatives
In 2005, the Lingle-Aiona Administration focused on early childhood education and improving support for the University of Hawaii. This allowed the Administration to concentrate on services to children before they enter the DOE system and after they graduate.
Under the imaginative guidance of the Director of Human Services, the Lingle Administration was able to redirect $5 million per year in state funds and $20 million per year in Federal funds (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) to accomplish three objectives:
• Increase the number of child care slots available to children for low and moderate income families. Over 600 more children are now able to attend pre-school as a result of this support.
• Reward child care providers who adopt national standards. As a result of Governor Lingle’s efforts, bonuses of $50 per child were provided to institutions that adopted the pre-school content standards for 4 year-olds. This helps ensure that young children enter kindergarten with basic learning skills such as the alphabet, numbers, colors and socialization skills.
• Reward organizations that hire trained staff with early childhood education credits, and granting waivers to teachers-in-training who are working on their early education credentials. Over 200 requests have been honored, increasing the cadre of trained early education providers in our State of Hawai`i
At the same time, the Administration focused on improving higher education opportunities. State funding support was increased to the University of Hawaii. Programs such as “Gear Up” that allow high schools to obtain college credits for advanced studies, were supported and funded. The Governor approved the construction of the new West O`ahu University campus. And a School of Pharmacy was established on the campus of the University of Hawai`i—Hilo, the first such school in the state.
Additionally, the Administration proposed and testified in favor of additional autonomy for the University of Hawai`i. As the key institution of higher learning in the state, the university is governed by an appointed Board of Regents. These officials are held responsible for setting policies for the university and community college system and for ensuring sound management oversight. Allowing the university to manage its procurement, capital improvements, accounting and auditing functions is important to a transparent and accountable system of higher education governance. During the years 2005 through 2010, the Lingle Administration supported and successfully gained passage of statutes that extended the fiscal and purchasing autonomy of UH.
2006 and 2007 Education Initiatives
As the State budget improved, the Lingle Administration directed resources to the repair and upgrade of Hawai`i’s public school campuses. In 2006, the Administration completed the transfer of repair and maintenance staff from the Department of Accounting and General Services to the DOE, giving the education department the ability to deploy personnel as them deemed appropriate.
In FY 2006 the Lingle Administration also released $200 million in repair, maintenance and construction funds for schools throughout the state. This was followed in FY 2007 with an additional $170 million in new school construction funds, $230 million in school repair moneys and a special $5 million appropriation for solar panel installations at select schools. These appropriations resulted in a total of $605 million being allocated for school repairs, upgrades, and new construction over a two year period—the single highest burst of capital spending the schools have ever received.
Also during this time period the Administration supported the creation of the Construction Trades Academy, which prepares high school students to enter the building trades apprenticeship programs. The Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Training Program (PACT) worked with 9th and 10th grade students to prepare them to enter carpentry and related construction fields.
The Administration also designated additional funds to community colleges to augment the training of nurses. This effort resulted in 2010 in the School of Nursing successfully initiating its accreditation program.
Additionally, in 2006 Governor Lingle signed Act 286 that permitted traditional public school and public charter schools to employ retired teachers and school administrators in shortage area and to serve as mentors. Prior to this time teachers were not allowed to return without having an adverse impact on their retirement benefits.
2007-2008 Innovation in Education Initiative
In 2007 and 2008, Governor Lingle launched a bold new program to substantially improve the academic achievement of public school students. Known as the Hawai`i “Innovation Initiative,” the Governor proposed and was successful in gaining adoption of programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.
She did this through a multi-pronged approach that used hands-on project based learning venues, nationally recognized curricula, intensive professional development for science and math teachers, and private sector mentoring. To carry out the program the Administration created STEM Academies in high schools, FIRST (Fostering Inspiration and Relevance in Science and Technology) Pre-Academies in middle schools, and age-appropriate robotics programs in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the state.
For students who are more inclined to an artistic bent, the Innovation Initiative also included a Creative Academies option. Here visual arts are combined with math and engineering to create a comprehensive learning environment using computer assisted design tools.
In three short years these programs expanded from a handful of schools to being available in over half of all public schools in the state providing opportunities previously unavailable to thousands of Hawaii’s school students and resulting in national and international science and robotics awards to Hawai`i teams.
When the Administration first got involved with robotics education efforts, there were 95 existing teams in the state (several schools hosted multiple teams). Today, after considerable focus was placed on ensuring hands-on, STEM education through robotics principles is available to students from elementary through high school, there are 476 teams throughout the state. These teams now represent 54% of Hawai`i’s public, private and charter schools.
The teams compete in one of six robotics programs beginning with FIRST LEGO League (elementary school), VEX Robotics, Botball, Underwater Robotics (middle and high school levels) and FIRST Robotics and Micro Robotics (high school).
2009 Education Initiatives
While the charter school statutes had been amended several times, charters were still receiving only 60 percent of the funding available to traditional public school students in 2009. To address this discrepancy, the Administration proposed legislation that became Act 86 to revamp the funding formula for charter schools. This included ensuring that facilities money was included in their budgets since a significant number of charter schools must rent space and do not have a permanent campus.
The Administration also proposed revamping the funding formula so that it was based on the current Department of Education budget, rather than data more than two years old. Act 86 also clarified how employee fringe benefits are handled in the charter school budget. While the statutory funding formula has been improved, it will be up to future Legislatures to ensure that they respect the intent for parity funding for charter schools.
Additionally, Act 86 clarified the roles and responsibilities of the Charter School Review Panel that approves new charter schools.
Under the Federal Stimulus Program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Hawai`i, like the other 49 states, received over $157 million in State fiscal stabilization funds. These moneys are being used to help the University system and the DOE to close their budget gaps in FY 2010 and FY 2011.
In addition to these funds, each of the nation’s governors received a discretionary allocation of State Fiscal Stabilization funds. Hawai`i’s allocation was $35 million. Although governors were given wide authority to use these federal dollars for any state public programs, Governor Lingle pledged in mid-2009 to use the $35 million exclusively to improve public education in Hawaii.
She worked tirelessly to commit the money to important science programs that directly benefit public school students, such as the Hawai`i State Science Olympiad, the Hawaii State Science Fair, and the Challenger Space Center. She also allocated funds to propose the international baccalaureate program in certain school complexes, ensure that all charter schools work toward accreditation, and increase the number of highly qualified teachers in public charter schools.
Additionally, she dedicated a portion of these funds to help over 17,000 students in schools that are not meeting adequate yearly progress standards by offering extended after school learning opportunities and intensive summer school programs.
2010 Education Accomplishments
The strategic investments Governor Lingle made to benefit public school children helped Hawai`i win and additional $75 million in Race to the Top Funds in August 2010. This highly competitive and coveted award sets Hawai`i on a five-year path to ensure every public school student in Hawai`i graduates with the skills and ability to begin a career or enter college.
Different from prior efforts to improve student performance, Race to the Top must be conducted in a nationally monitored framework that will hold the State publicly accountable for achieving specific benchmarks on a pre-set timetable. These include adopting performance based compensation programs for teachers and school administrators, opening the paths by which skilled professionals can become teachers and enter the classroom; allowing failing schools to be closed or their management to be terminated and replaced; and setting up a publicly available database that tracks the progress of each child and gives teachers early signals when supplemental instruction is needed.
The decision by the Board of Education and Department of Education to furlough teachers and close schools two days per month was resolved in May 2010 with the Governor’s team brokering an arrangement that included a $10 million loan from the State’s private banks to supplement State Hurricane Relief funds. Passage of the Federal Jobs Fund bill in the summer of 2010 provided an additional $39 million in Federal funds to Hawai`i’s schools, which should substantially decrease the need to use Hurricane relief funds, or tap into the loan program.
It is important to note that while school furloughs were not an ideal situation, test scores actually went up during the year of furloughs.
The furloughs also galvanized parents into proposing and supporting legislation that will mandate Hawai`i Public Schools to offer a minimum of 180 days of instruction each year. Acting Governor Duke Aiona signed this legislation into law as Act 167 in June 2010.
Governor Lingle’s early efforts to revamp the structure of public education were successful in 2010 when the public overwhelmingly voted on a State Constitutional amendment to abolish the State elected School Board and replace them with a board appointed by the Governor. While Governor Lingle will not make these appointments, she championed the opportunity for the next Governor to be given the ability to select people who will set public education policy in the state. If implemented correctly, this constitutional change will help ensure that future Governor’s are held accountable for the performance of our public school system.