“We are dismayed that First Hawaiian chose to promote families going into debt to send their 5-year-olds to private elementary schools… A sad commentary on public education in our state.”

Editorial in the Island Voices of the Star Advertiser

By Lois A. Yamauchi
April 2, 2017

We, on the board of Parents for Public Schools of Hawaii, express our opposition to a First Hawaiian Bank commercial that depicts a local couple celebrating that their young child got into private school. While the text reads “Pay for Private School” and the announcer says, “You want the best for your child. We get it, and we can help” and suggests a home equity loan.
This commercial perpetuates the myth that “the best” for all children is a private school education, when there are many indications that there are excellent public schools in Hawaii. About 16 percent of families in Hawaii send their children to private schools, a trend that began when missionaries created separate schools for their children, not wanting them to attend school with Hawaiians. Such a racist and segregationist agenda continues today, albeit in a somewhat veiled fashion.
Parents are inundated with messages that they should do everything possible to send their children to private schools. This creates fear among young families that the public schools are inadequate. They are told that if they truly love their children, then they should send them to private schools. This message is counterproductive to the development of our state, as many talented young people leave our islands because they are unable to afford the high cost of living, including private schools.
But the majority of families in our state does send our children to public schools. We love our children and do not feel that we are putting our children’s future at risk by doing so. Quite the contrary. We believe in our public schools — in our teachers and in the importance of communities where multi-ethnic people and those from various income levels work together to learn from and about one another.
We value public schools that can create such an environment for children, rather than segregate them from others who are not like them. The 800 members of our organization believe that public schools are the bedrock of a strong democratic society. All of us must work to preserve the integrity of this vital element of our community.
Executives from First Hawaiian Bank are familiar with Hawaii’s public schools. Its executive vice president, Lance Mizumoto, is chairman of Hawaii’s Board of Education, and former CEO Don Horner was also a former BOE chairman. We know that First Hawaiian Bank is a business that earns revenue by convincing people to take out loans to better their lives.
However, given all of the messages that could be chosen to persuade people to take out loans, we are dismayed that First Hawaiian chose to promote families going into debt to send their 5-year-olds to private elementary schools. This is a disturbing message that even those who are in the highest level of policy-making in our public school system know that sending their children to a private school is the “best” thing they can do for them. A sad commentary on public education in our state.