Hawaii Ed Board Passes Graduation Policy — Again

Katherine Poythress/Civil Beat

What was supposed to be a routine revote on Hawaii's graduation policy Tuesday turned into a showdown between school board members and the Department of Education.

A seemingly simple language change — from the word "and" to the word "or" — stretched into a lengthy and emotional discussion among board members and department officials. It lasted into the evening and, at times, seemed as if Hawaii's new graduation policy had imploded — despite the fact that two weeks ago it had become, for all intents and purposes, policy.

In the end, the simple wording change changed nothing. Hawaii high schoolers will still have to take a third math course: Algebra 2 or a proficiency-based equivalent.

The department's graduation policy has been rocked with controversy for weeks, primarily because it reduced the number of social studies credits. A later fix muddied things even more because it eliminated a specific requirement for U.S. history and world history.

Then some people raised concerns that the Board of Education may have violated the Sunshine Law with an agenda item proposing new high school graduation requirements that hadn't been properly noticed.

Confident after a meeting with the Attorney General's deputy that they had "properly sunshined," board members unanimously approved the new requirements on Sept. 20.

But questions and concerns about the possible Sunshine violation lingered. So, erring on the side of caution, the board decided to revote on the graduation policy at its regular meeting Tuesday.

And that's when the entire thing almost fell apart.

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