The Last Word: Randy Baldemor on Why Voters Should Choose Appointed Ed Board

Katherine Poythress/Civil Beat

As citizens, we have a say not just in who represents our interests but in how government and our society operates.

For more than four decades, Hawai‘i has elected its Board of Education members. The result: a public education system that is failing our keiki. According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (2006), Hawai‘i had the “steepest decline” among all states in college enrollment over the past decade. According to a study by Complete College America, only 68 out of every 100 9th graders in Hawai‘i public schools will graduate on time and, of those, only seven will graduate college on time. And, this past school year, more than 170,000 children lost 17 instructional days because the Board of Education – the entity that is constitutionally responsible for setting the policies and priorities of our public education system – was not looking out for the interests of our children.

The current system is not working. While there are no silver bullet solutions to fixing our public schools, appointing the Board of Education is a critical first step to improving public education. An appointed board means clear accountability, and the ability for our leaders to move public education forward in a positive direction, rather than pointing fingers and keeping children as pawns in a political game that ends with stalemate. Additionally, a more thorough selection process will yield candidates that are uniquely qualified to manage the vision, policy, and multi-billion dollar budget of our public education system, rather than be relegated to individuals who are elected primarily by name recognition and blank ballots, and about whom we know very little, if anything, much less their qualifications to govern this very important system.

Opponents of the ballot measure will try to argue that voters should never give up a right to vote. However, voting for an appointed board is not giving up a right, it is exercising the important right to vote on constitutional amendments that will improve our community. We have waited patiently for the elected BOE to deliver results during the past 42 years. It is time to acknowledge that the system we have in place is not working and it is time for a change.

A broad cross-section of the community endorses this effort - students, parents, teachers, principals, former and current Board of Education members, civic leaders, Democrats, Republicans and previous leaders intimately involved with the Board of Education including former Superintendent Pat Hamamoto and all four living governors, who can rarely be expected to unanimously agree on anything, but agree on this even though none will benefit from this change. They know that to move our public education system forward, change is needed, and that this is a critical step toward positive change.

As a community, we have the power, indeed the obligation, to take a stand on important issues and help to improve our community. Our public education system needs leadership and direction. Our keiki need our support. On November 2nd, please vote “YES” for an appointed Board of Education.


DISCUSSION: Share your thoughts about the question of whether an appointed education board is better than an elected one and read what others have to say about the topic in our discussion dedicated to the issue.

Randy Baldemor is chairman of Hawaii's Children First, the principal group advocating for the constitutional amendment that would replace the state's elected board of education with one appointed by the governor.

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