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Honolulu Rail Tax Alive, But Ige Still Has Questions

Hawaii senators seemed satisfied with the city's explanation of the project's nearly $1 billion shortfall and the possible ramifications of halting construction.

·By Nick Grube

A controversial measure to increase the general excise tax to pay for Honolulu’s $6 billion rail project passed its first committee hearing in the Hawaii Senate on Thursday.

But lawmakers didn’t give the city the permanent half-percent surcharge it was seeking.

Instead, they extended the 2022 sunset date to 2047 and tacked on several caveats, including requiring a state audit of the project’s finances that must be completed before the 2016 legislative session.

The amended bill states that half of the 10 percent surcharge revenue the state skims from the rail portion of the GET must also be used for transit-oriented development projects.

Rail construction is ongoing, but without an increase in taxes it could stop, rail officials say.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It was a victory for the city’s project, which has an estimated shortfall of up to $1 billion. The was vote unanimous and there weren’t many tough questions coming from committee members.

With the extension, lawmakers hope the project could expand to the University of Hawaii at Manoa and downtown Kapolei.

RelatedOff the Rails: Honolulu Transit Project Up to $700M Over BudgetDec 18At Least $1.25B Has Been Spent on Rail So Far, But Where Has All the Money Gone?Jan 30HART: Rail Could Run Out of Cash By This SummerFeb 11

“We understand within these committees the importance of rail,” said Sen. Will Espero, who chairs the Public Safety Committee that was part of Thursday’s joint hearing.

“It’s not only about mobility. But it’s really dealing with the future growth of our population

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Hawaii Educator Named Finalist for National Teacher of the Year

Waikiki Elementary teacher is one of four vying for a top education award.

·By Nathan Eagle

Waikiki Elementary teacher Catherine Caine says teaching offers her “joy and an intellectual challenge on a daily basis.”

Waikiki Elementary teacher Catherine Caine, 2015 Hawaii Teacher of the Year.

DOE

“I treasure the moments when authentic learning becomes linked to my instructional outcomes and transforms the teaching and learning process from practice into art,” she said in a Department of Education release Wednesday announcing the news that she’s been named one of four finalists for the 2015 National Teacher of the Year Award.

“The process of guiding my students to learn ‘how’ to think and not ‘what’ to think sustains my love for the profession,” she said.

Caine, who won the Hawaii State Teacher of the Year award, has taught at Waikiki Elementary for the past 23 years. The DOE says her focus has been on critical thinking, project-based learning, Habits of Mind and Philosophy for Children, a program Civil Beat wrote about when the Dalai Lama visited the islands a few years ago.

“We are thrilled and couldn’t be more proud of having Catherine represent Hawaii,” Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said in the release. “She exemplifies key qualities of an effective educator. Her passion for teaching is evident in her classroom and school campus, as well as in her dedication to share her expertise with peers and advance the profession.”

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New York-Based Education Super PAC Registers in Hawaii

"Education Reform Now Advocacy" is affiliated with the national nonprofit Democrats for Education Reform.

·By Alia Wong

The New York City-based independent expenditure committee “Education Reform Now Advocacy” registered today with the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission.

With just a week to go before the Nov. 4 election, it’s unclear what local issue or candidate the committee is focusing on. The only report available online is the group’s organizational report, which states the committee has ties to Democrats for Education Reform.

Students at the Hawaiian immersion charter school Nawahiokalaniopuu Iki.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The committee’s chairman is Patrick van Keerbergen, DFER’s political director and a longtime political organizer who served as the Manhattan field director for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reelection campaign.

As an independent expenditure committee — or super PAC — Education Reform Now Advocacy can spend and raise unlimited amounts of money as long as it doesn’t coordinate with any candidates.

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Schatz Endorses Preschool Ballot Campaign

The campaign is advocating for Question No. 4, which would allow the state to spending public funding on private preschool programs.

·By Alia Wong

Sen. Brian Schatz is publicly supporting the campaign to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to use public funds to pay for private preschool programs.

The Good Beginning Alliance campaign — “Yes on 4″ — already has the support of a range of business groups, private preschool providers and Native Hawaiian advocacy organizations. It’s been raising and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Advocates say the passage of Question No. 4 is key to expanding access to preschool for more of the state’s 4-year-olds. They say it would allow the state to contract with private providers and subsidize tuition, making preschool more affordable for low- and middle-income families.

Sen. Brian Schatz

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Each year Hawaii is home to some 17,500 4-year-olds, about 40 percent of which are not enrolled in preschool. A quality early education is said to be a key building block in a child’s life.

“I’m supporting the amendment because all parents should be able to send their kids to preschool,” Schatz said in a statement. “Every kid deserves a fair shot and it’s clear that early learning is essential for future success.”

“A yes vote is about helping four-year-olds get prepared for kindergarten,” Schatz continued. “Kids are four years old only once and we have an obligation to do everything in our power to give them the best possible chance at succeeding.”

Hawaii is the only state to prohibit public funding of private preschools.

But opponents, including the Hawaii State Teachers Association, say the constitutional amendment would

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Windward Community College Gets $9.9M for Native Hawaiians

The federal grant will support childcare and science, technology, engineering and math education.

·By Alia Wong

Windward Community College says it will develop a Hawaiian immersion childcare center and improve its science, technology, engineering and math programs with a new $9.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The grant, which lasts five years and is titled “Hanai a ulu: Feed and Grow—Nurturing student parents and STEM at Windward Community College,” is aimed at enhancing Native Hawaiian students’ success. Forty-two percent of the college’s students identify as Native Hawaiian.

Windward Community College will use its $9.9 million grant to support Native Hawaiian education.

University of Hawaii

WCC is the only community college in the state without a childcare center. The center — which as an immersion program will feature instruction in the Hawaiian language — will also feature a counselor and textbook library, according to a press release.

“If a student does not have reliable care for their child, how can they attend classes, study, and succeed in college?” said Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ardis Eschenberg in a statement. “This grant works to provide childcare services for our student parents so that they can grow and succeed in college, which helps their keiki to grow and succeed.”

The grant will also be used to renovate the colleges STEM facilities — virtual and physical — to increase student participation and success in those fields. The idea is to enhance technology, data access and opportunities for laboratory experience.

WCC has been increasing the number of STEM-based degrees and certificates, including a Certificate of Achievement in Agripharmatech, which incorporates classes on Native

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Big Bucks Going Into Preschool Ballot Initiative

The list of groups that have endorsed the constitutional amendment includes business coalitions, Native Hawaiian advocacy organizations and private tuition-based preschools.

·By Alia Wong

With less than three weeks to go before the general election, the campaign in support of a ballot initiative to allow the use of public money for private preschools is picking up steam — and doling out the big bucks.

Question No. 4 on the ballot asks voters whether the state can amend the constitution to allow the allocation of taxpayer dollars to private preschool programs as part of an initiative to expand early education in Hawaii. Four out of every 10 children miss out on preschool in Hawaii, in large part because tuition is too expensive for most families to afford it.

The amendment, its supporters say, would enable a system in which the state could contract with private preschools, bringing down their tuition and making them more accessible to children of all means.

But opponents say it will only exacerbate the current two-tiered system, benefitting families with money and leaving limited opportunities for the low- and middle-income children.

Keiki Child Center of Hawaii in Pearl City is one of many private preschools that have endorsed the constitutional amendment.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The “Yes on 4″ campaign is being spearheaded by Good Beginnings Alliance, a children’s advocacy group whose political committee has been collecting and spending lots of cash to ramp up support for the ballot question. The group sent out a press release today touting support for Question No. 4 from the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Bank of Hawaii, First Insurance Company of Hawaii and Hawaii Electric — not exactly the names that first come to mind when

EducationThe BeatEducation Blog

UH Manoa Conducts First Massive Open Online Course

The course — Introduction to E-Learning — is offered in the College of Education.

·By Alia Wong

MOOCs are now making their way into the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

MOOCS, as in massive open online courses: a 2-year-old fad in higher education in which universities — including the likes of Stanford, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — offer online courses, often for free, to anyone who signs up.

It’s taken UH a while to hop on the bandwagon, but a UH Manoa College of Education course that launched this summer could be a harbinger of a new era of online learning in the state’s only public university system.

It’s no coincidence that the course explores the very topics it represents. “Introduction to E-Learning,” a class offered through the college’s Department of Learning Design and Technology, can be taken for university credit or for free without.

“Introduction to E-Learning” is the first massive open online course offered at UH Manoa.

UHM College of Education

The college offered it for the first time for three weeks in July, enrolling 64 students ranging from beginners to university faculty interested in enhancing their own instruction and information-technology personnel looking for professional development. The course is being offered again in the spring.

The course uses open content copyrighted through Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that facilitates the exchange of materials and knowledge.

Students collaborate with each other and faculty members in a social media-based community, working in real time and on their own. The course also has an evaluation system through which students can rate assignments and provide feedback about the instructors.

The

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$33M Released for UH Hilo College of Pharmacy Building

The funding was key to securing accreditation for the college, which as been operating out of portables and at two off-campus locations.

·By Alia Wong

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, as acting governor, has released $33 million for the construction of a 35,000-square-foot facility for the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s College of Pharmacy.

That $33 million includes the $28 million in general obligation bonds and $5 million in revenue bonds that were approved by the 2014 Legislature.

Funding for the instructional and research building was key to ensuring the college’s accreditation remained in good standing.

A rendition of one of the labs that the College of Pharmacy’s new building will include.

UH Hilo

The college, which was founded in 2007, has been operating out of modular portables and at two off-campus locations.

The Accreditation Council of Pharmacy Education declared the school out of compliance in 2013 in large part because it lacked the appropriate facilities, putting the college’s fate at risk.

The funds will finance construction of a building that is slated to include classrooms, teaching and research laboratories, offices and other spaces in accordance with national guidelines.

 

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UH Student Affairs Exec Recommended as Maui College Chancellor

Lui Hokoana currently serves as vice chancellor for student affairs at UH West Oahu.

·By Alia Wong

A longtime University of Hawaii student affairs administrator has been recommended to be the next chancellor of UH Maui College.

Lui Hokoana currently serves as the vice chancellor for student affairs at UH West Oahu, a position he’s held since last year. Before that he was the associate vice president for student affairs for the entire university system and the vice chancellor for student affairs at Windward Community College. He’s also overseen various programs at Maui College, were he began his career at UH in 1991 as a counselor. 

Lui Hokoana has worked at UH since 1991.

University of Hawaii

Hokoana attended UH for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science and communications, respectively. He earned a doctorate of education degree from the University of Southern California.

He was named State Manager of the Year in 2011.

Hokoana’s selection as chancellor is subject to final approval by the Board of Regents. The board will make the decision at its next meeting on Oct. 16.

Hokoana was selected from a group of five candidates announced last month. The other candidates included Jonathan McKee, the vice chancellor of academic affairs at Maui College, and Michael Reiner, a fellow at the City University of New York.

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Is the DOE’s New Performance System Skewed Toward Elementary Schools?

Not a single middle or high school performed well enough in the Strive HI accountability system to be eligible for cash rewards from the state.

·By Alia Wong

The Hawaii Department of Education recently announced that it’s awarding $230,000 to 15 schools that performed particularly well during the 2013-14 school year.

The system that measures schools’ success is called Strive HI — a new accountability framework that officials tout for its focus on dynamic measures of performance and growth rather than solely on test scores. Schools’ scores are based on an array of metrics that are customized to specific student populations, from chronic absenteeism to college-going rates.

The scores are categorized into five levels, with “Recognition” schools performing in the top 5 percent. The 15 schools getting awards are “Recognition” schools.

Students at Ewa Beach’s Ilima Intermediate School, whose score put it in the “Continuous Improvement” category. “Continuous Improvement” is the second-highest level on the Strive HI index.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

But it would appear that middle and high schools are getting the short end of the stick. All the “Recognition” schools this year are elementary schools; last year, all but one were.

That could reveal flaws in the Strive HI system — flaws that effectively preclude secondary schools from getting some extra cash and “recognition.” The state has far fewer secondary schools, so their chances of making it into the Top 5 are less likely. High schools are also subject to an added criterion to be considered “high performing”: that their graduation rates are in the top 10 percent of high schools statewide.

Fourteen of the 15 elementary schools each received $15,000 for high performance, while one school — Kailua’s Kaelepulu Elementary — got $20,000 for

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Study: Hawaii the 5th Worst State for Teachers

The Aloha State ranked worst in the nation for average starting salaries and median annual salaries.

·By Alia Wong

Hawaii is one of the worst places in the country to work if you’re a teacher, according to a new study from WalletHub, a personal finance social network.

Overall, the Aloha State ranked fifth worst, according to WalletHub’s analysis of 18 metrics including topics such as salary, demographics, student-to-teacher ratio and commute time.

Hawaii’s worst scores — lists on which it ranked 51st — were for “Average Starting Salaries” and “Median Annual Salaries.” Both categories are adjusted for cost of living.

For Hawaii teachers, the starting salary (for those with a bachelor and training in a teacher education program) is $45,157. The median salary is $55,319.

In terms of overall rankings, Wyoming got the best score, while North Carolina fared the worst.

WalletHub conducted the study as a tribute to World Teachers Day, which is Oct. 5.

“Most educators don’t pursue their profession for the money,” the WalletHub post says. “That’s a no-brainer these days. But that also doesn’t justify low pay, especially for a profession that makes such a profound difference in young people’s lives. And the sad reality is this: Many teachers are shortchanged with salaries that fail to keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, their workloads have grown with heightened demand from the law to elicit better student performance.”

Nationally, about a fifth of new public school teachers leave their professions before the end of their first year, according to WalletHub.

Civil Beat reported last September that 55 percent of new Hawaii teachers leave the profession within their first five years on the job.

 

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US Labor Dept Gives $10M to Hawaii Community Colleges

The grants aim to support job training programs in the IT and health care industries.

·By Alia Wong

The state’s seven community colleges are receiving nearly $10 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to support job-training programs in the information technology and health care industries.

All in all, the labor department is setting aside more than $450 million in grants this year to community colleges across the country — marking the last year of a four-year initiative that will have given schools $2 billion total.

The idea is to expand the capacity of community colleges to provide training in partnership with local employers.

Health aides, such as this one at Kahuku High & Intermediate’s clinic, are one example of a field that could expand under the U.S. Department of Labor’s job-training grants.

©PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Through this year’s grant, the Hawaii community colleges, a consortium being led by the University of Hawaii — Maui College, are aimed at providing participating students entry-level certificates in cybersecurity, school health assistance and community health. Targeted students include workers eligible under the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program, those in need of updated training, women and minorities and veterans.

The biggest award for Hawaii is worth nearly $5 million and is going toward UH — Maui College.

“The nearly $10 million investment in Hawaii colleges announced today will help prepare local workers with the skills needed for in-demand careers and advance the role of community colleges as engines of economic growth,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in a statement.

The department has given Hawaii more than $52 million total in grants over