Teachers running for union offices in an internal election now underway will be allowed to distribute their campaign materials in school mailboxes, according to the terms of a temporary restraining order issued last week by the Hawaii Labor Relations Board.
The TRO effectively overrides a recent ruling by staff of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, at least for the next several weeks.
The labor board’s action came in response to a prohibited practice complaint filed on behalf of the Hawaii State Teachers Association by former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. HSTA is the exclusive bargaining agent for Hawaii’s 13,500 public school teachers.
The March 27 order prohibits the Department of Education from enforcing the ethics ruling, which advised that use of teacher mailboxes for campaign materials was “inappropriate,” contrary to the state ethics code, and should not be allowed.
The TRO was based on an agreement between the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the DOE that it “is in the interest of justice and fair play” to allow the current elections to proceed under the rules that have been in place for decades.
The TRO will remain in effect until April 24, the day after HSTA voting ends.
A parallel lawsuit seeking a similar TRO through the courts was initially denied, and later withdrawn following the labor board’s action.
Direct Challenge to Follow
The union and the DOE also agreed to ask the labor board to defer further action on the HSTA complaint
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.
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
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.
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’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.
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
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.”
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
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Sen. David Ige’s bill would restore funding for DOE athletics programs.
The case alleged that several churches shortchanged the state in their use of Hawaii’s public school campuses.
A sneak peak at some of this year’s hot topics in education, from mandatory kindergarten to hot classrooms.