Education Coalition 'Never Been Done Before'

Katherine Poythress/Civil Beat

Hawaii has dozens of education groups, each promoting its own cause and doing what it thinks is right by Hawaii's keiki.

But if the launch event for the new Hui for Excellence in Education (HE‘E) is any indication, there's a new kid on the block, and it could make even bigger things happen.

Monday's meeting at the state Capitol was a virtual who's who of Hawaii education. Gov. Neil Abercrombie ate lunch at the sign-in table next to Hawaii P-20 Council director Tammi Chun. House Education Chairman Roy Takumi and Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Jill Tokuda talked with Hawaii schools superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, who popped in during the last few minutes.

The former president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association talked story with a professor from the University of Hawaii, and representatives from more than a dozen grassroots and nonprofit education organizations mingled for more than an hour. Meanwhile, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation director Terry George met Darren Dean from the military's Joint Venture Education Forum for the first time.

Also there was Ann Davis of Hawaii Education Matters, which played a central role in ending last year's Furlough Fridays.

The luncheon was a microcosm of what HE'E aims to do: Gather all of the state's education stakeholders in one place so they can work together. Although there are an abundance of networks that deal with specific education-related issues, this is Hawaii's first statewide coalition designed to encompass all of them.

"This is a wonderful, wonderful thing," said Abercrombie in an informal address to the group Monday afternoon. "Education reforms and reconfigurations like this can be so valuable to the Legislature and those of us casting votes on education issues."

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