Latest Articles

  • Hawaii Monitor: Ethics Commission Ruling Draws Teachers’ Union Lawsuit

    · By Ian Lind

    The Hawaii State Teachers Association launched two legal actions this week to block enforcement of a new policy prohibiting teachers who are candidates for union offices from distributing their individual campaign materials in school mailboxes.

    The actions came in response to a ruling earlier this month by staff of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission disallowing campaign use of school resources, including teacher mailboxes.

    “We do not think it is appropriate for schools to allow the use of a mailbox to distribute individual teacher campaign information,” executive director Les Kondo told commissioners during their regular monthly meeting on March 18.

    The new ethics ruling ended a common practice which has been “ongong for decades,” Kondo told the commission.

    School buses at the Hawaii State Capitol

    Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat


    It’s one in a string of opinions that have tightened ethics restrictions and applied ethics laws more aggressively since Kondo took over his post in early 2011.

    On Monday, the union filed an emergency motion in First Circuit Court seeking a temporary restraining order to stop enforcement of the ethics ruling and maintain the status quo, at least through the current union election.

    That case was filed by David Alan Nakashima, an attorney with the law firm of Alston Hunt Floyd and Ing. Named as defendants are Gov. David Ige, the State of Hawaii, the Department of Education, Board of Education, and Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

    At the same time, former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa filed a prohibited practices complaint with the State Labor Relations Board, which has

  • Hawaii Legislature Should Expand Preschool Programs

    · By Jonathan Gillentine

    Young children need a solid foundation in order to be successful learners, especially as they approach the age of kindergarten. Families and the community as a whole must ensure that preschool children have a strong foundation for learning, a foundation that supports their social, emotional, linguistic, physical, and cognitive development.

    While we have made gains as a state, there is much work to be done to prepare our youngest scholars. That is why it is important for the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 844 and its companion in the house, House Bill 820, which will provide a critical expansion to preschool programs already started.

    Preschoolers at Seagull Schools

    Alia Wong/Civil Beat

    This school year, Hawaii began to provide public preschool through legislative funding of $3 million. The effort was initiated, in part, due to the change in the entry age for kindergarten. Children who reached the age of 5 by July 31, 2014, could start. Children who turned 5 on August 1 or later (many call them the Fall Fives) had to wait another year to enter public school. Those keiki who were not eligible to enter kindergarten were targeted for this new preschool program.

    Unfortunately, funding only provided 21 classrooms across the state. With a maximum of 20 children per classroom, only a mere 420 children could attend, far short of the thousands of children who were eligible by the change in age requirement for kindergarten entry.

    We must continue what we started. SB 844 and HB 820 will

  • Hawaii Schools: Better Attendance Rates But Worse Test Scores

    · By Alia Wong

    Hawaii’s elementary schools have significantly improved their attendance rates, according to the most recent results of Strive HI, the state Department of Education’s system for measuring student performance and growth.

    Schools across the board have also made strides in science proficiency.

    But math and reading scores are down from last year, while college-readiness, graduation and college-going rates have remained steady.

    McKinley High School journalism teacher Cindy Reves prepares for her class, April 2014.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Strive HI is the state’s new accountability system for grading schools and replaces the federal No Child Left Behind program. The DOE touts its focus on customized measurements of success and student growth rather than static test scores. The new results reflect the performance of students during the 2013-14 school year, and many of the measurements compare these findings with those from the 2012-13 school year.

    The reduction in chronic absenteeism — the rate of students missing 15 or more days of school — is one of the most encouraging findings. Chronic absenteeism is a significant predictor of student success, as Civil Beat has reported in the past. The DOE only measures chronic absenteeism among elementary schools.

    The percentage of students absent 15 days or more in the 2013-14 school year dropped to 11 percent from 18 percent a year ago. That’s the equivalent of more than 5,500 students statewide.

    “During a year of tremendous change in our public schools, it is clear that our students and staff continue to answer the call to strive higher at every level,” Superintendent Kathryn

  • Stormy Weather: Hurricane Iselle Is About to Rock Hawaii

    · By Alia Wong

    Hurricane Iselle, the first hurricane that could hit the Big island in more than 20 years, was steadily churning toward Hilo and expected to make landfall Thursday.

    Meanwhile, Hurricane Julio is advancing toward the islands and could strike the Big Island as soon as Sunday. On Wednesday evening, Julio was 1,450 miles east of Hilo, about 1,000 miles behind Iselle. 

    On Wednesday, Iselle was considered a category 1 hurricane. On Tuesday evening it appeared as though the cyclone was weakening, but then it started to strengthen Wednesday. It’s expected to make its way across the rest of the state on Friday. 

    “Because it’s maintaining its strength right now, it’s minimizing the likelihood that it’s going to weaken,” National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Cantin said Wednesday afternoon. “It’ll be a rough end of the week for us.”

    Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell speaks to media at the Department of Emergency Management about city plans for dealing with Hurricane Iselle. August 6, 2014

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Officials are saying little about Julio at this point, noting that it’s still too far away from the archipelago to speculate about its impact on the islands.

    A hurricane warning has been issued for the Big Island — the first such advisory to be issued for the island in more than a decade — while a flash flood watch is in effect across the entire state through Saturday morning. As of Wednesday afternoon, tropical storm warnings had been issued for most

  • Instructors Ask if Hawaii’s New Teacher Evaluation System Fails Students

    · By Alia Wong

    The system being tested out at all public schools this year will affect most teachers’ pay starting in 2015-2016.

  • Hawaii Lawmakers Mull Tempering Sharp Increase in Teaching Hours

    · By Alia Wong

    The state continues to wrestle with the amount of time students should spend in the classroom.

  • Living Hawaii: Many Families Sacrifice to Put Kids in Private Schools

    · By Alia Wong

    One in seven school-age children in the state attend private schools — the highest percentage in the nation.

  • Energy Drain: Is HECO a Drag on Hawaii Schools’ Renewable Power Plan?

    · By Alia Wong

    The multiyear alternative energy plan being rolled out is expected to save millions of dollars a year.

  • Keiki Care: Revolutionary Pilot Program’s Campus Health Care Targets Teens

    · By Alia Wong

    Lack of access to health services prompts the creation of the state’s first at-school clinic.

  • Food for Thought: Many Oahu Schools Miss Basic Food Safety Checks

    · By Alia Wong

    The federal government requires public schools to receive at least two food safety inspections per year.

  • Hawaii Lawmakers Mull Clearer Rules for Schools With Uncontrollable Kids

    · By Alia Wong

    Incidents involving the intensive restraint and seclusion of autistic children have created momentum for change.

  • Moving the Ball: Hawaii Senator Wants Millions More for School Sports

    · By Alia Wong

    Sen. David Ige’s bill would restore funding for DOE athletics programs.

  • What Will the Hawaii DOE Do With the $775K New Hope Settlement?

    · By Alia Wong

    The case alleged that several churches shortchanged the state in their use of Hawaii’s public school campuses.

  • What Hawaii’s Legislature Has in Store for Education

    · By Alia Wong

    A sneak peak at some of this year’s hot topics in education, from mandatory kindergarten to hot classrooms.

  • Hawaii: New For-Profit High School Equivalency Exam Hopes to Pass

    · By Alia Wong

    The state’s just-launched version of the GED has prompted many states to use other high school equivalency exams.