Highlighting the Needs of Our Keiki
At the beginning of the 2016 legislative session, the Hawaii State Teacher’s Association (HSTA) introduced a sweeping omnibus education bill, “The Schools Our Keiki Deserve.” This bill included a 1% increase to the General Excise Tax in order to pay for a ten-point list of critical changes needed to support Hawai‘i public schools. The groundbreaking nature of this legislation was that it recognized the interrelated nature of those important issues, which in the past have been addressed with separate pieces of legislation, and it also included the funding necessary to implement the proposed improvements.
Our Hawai‘i chapter of Parents for Public Schools was excited about the media attention being given to the issues that have been holding back education in our State, and also a renewed sense of potential for real change. In January, HSTA president Corey Rosenlee presented the bill to our PPS Hawai‘i board, who subsequently voted to publicly support the teachers’ proposed omnibus legislation.
On February 5th, PPS Hawai‘i board members, staff, and general members joined with hundreds of teachers and community members from across O‘ahu for a rally in support of the legislation at the State Capital. Speakers included leaders from UNITE HERE local 5, the Aikea movement, teachers, and students. The media coverage of the event helped spread the word of the importance of this legislation.
In the following weeks, PPS Hawai‘i reviewed and analyzed responses from our ongoing “1,000 Family Voices” campaign, which is an open-ended survey designed to collect a broad spectrum of views on the things people like about public education in our state, and what they want changed. We used that information to inform our testimony, as it is part of our mission to communicate to decision makers the concerns of both our membership, as well as the opinions of families across the state. Our key points were:
- Our teachers are education’s greatest resource.
- It is time to end excessive testing and refocus education on the whole child.
- We need universal, public preschools.
PPS Hawai‘i board members Mary Weir and Lois Yamauchi submitted this testimony alongside teachers, parents, and concerned community members. Ultimately, the proposed bill received support in the Senate, but was defeated in the House.
We will not give up. The children of Hawai‘i deserve an education that includes music, arts, PE, and social studies education in order to the encourage healthy and creative development of the whole child. The teachers of Hawai‘i deserve compensation that frees them from the all-too common burden of a second job. The families of Hawai‘i deserve public preschool to support cognitive, social, and emotional development of their children starting from those early, critical years. Even though “The Schools Our Keiki Deserve” was not passed this legislative session, PPS Hawai‘i will continue working with HSTA and other partners to secure reliable funding for these and other important issues facing education in our State.