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Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network, Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action, Social Justice Council – First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, Education Caucus of the Democratic Party, and IMUA founded the “Fund Our Hawai‘i Schools Coalition” in the summer of 2018 to support the ballot measure constitutional amendment to fund our public schools. Given the court invalidation of the ballot measure, our effort continues!
We hope you will JOIN to build understanding to fund our schools.
Why Was the 2018 Hawai‘i Education Funding Ballot Measure Needed, and Why Did the Measure Fail?
Hawai‘i public schools do not offer quality education to all.
The state of Hawai’i is the only state that is one school district, the only state that does not fund public schools with property taxes, has the lowest teacher pay in the country and 45th per student funding. As a result, teacher turnover is highest in the country, over 1000 classrooms will have no qualified teacher again this year, Native Hawaiian students are more likely to have an unqualified teacher, many special needs students do not receive support from credentialed special education teachers, some schools have inadequate electrical systems, leaks, inoperable bathrooms, and most do not have air conditioning.
Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i board and members testified and attended hearings for two years building up to the ballot measure. The mission of Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i is to ensure access to quality education for all, and adequate school funding is required to achieve it. Representatives of many other community, parent, teacher and other groups also supported legislative action to fund schools more adequately.
Finally, this November, voters had an opportunity to correct under-funding of public schools.
After years of work with the legislature, including a failed proposal for a small GET increase to apply to public schools, eighteen months of committee hearings resulted in legislative passage by 75/1 for a Constitutional Amendment for education funding aka the “Con Am” was on the ballot for the Nov 2018 election. This Hawaii Surcharge on Investment Properties to Fund Public Education Amendment, Senate Bill 2922, would have authorized the Hawaii Legislature to establish a surcharge on investment properties, with revenue to be used to fund public education.
At the last minute, legislators removed specific terms from the “Con Am” ballot measure.
The legislature amended the wording of the measure to remove the specification of second home residential and vacation properties over $1 million. Removing these terms endangered passage of the measure though legislators maintained that any legislator who would tax more properties than intended would lose their seat and Gov. Ige promised that he would veto legislation that varied from the intent clearly set in the 18 months of hearings.
A Super PAC of business leaders, realtors and developers formed to defeat the school funding measure.
This group maintained in glossy mass mailings, frequent television ads, and in events that the language was too “vague” and that the legislature might abuse its power and not follow the intent. Further, the Super Pac spread the false idea that the measure would apply to commercial property and the fear that the measure would raise the cost of living for all, in spite of evidence to the contrary.
Opponents asked the courts to remove the measure from the ballot.
The counties sued that the language was vague and so the Con Am measure should be removed from the ballot. They felt that a state surcharge would limit their property taxing powers. The judge ruled that the language was appropriate and the ballot measure was to remain. But the counties appealed to the Hawaii Supreme court, which ruled, only three weeks before the election, to remove the measure from the ballot, preventing voters from expressing.
The ConAm Campaign and the Invalidation of the Ballot Measure caused a wider understanding of the funding crisis for Hawai‘i Public Schools. Most opponents said that they support public schools and that more funding is needed—but they did not agree on the funding method– the property tax surcharge. Though the state Supreme Court blocked residents from voting on school funding, an understanding has been reached by opponents, proponents, and the public — that a funding solution is critically needed.
Our Fund Our Hawai‘i Schools Coalition continues our work. We are reaching out to our community to seek views, support, and members. We will also reach out to our opposition to find ways acceptable to them to fund the schools, to understand and seek solutions to concerns voiced about the schools, including financial management.
Articles on the Con Am Campaign:
Con Am illuminated school funding crisis–HSTA website, Gov, schools superintendent call for more school resources, better pay
The Strange Legislative Path of the Con Am Bill– Gary Hooser, Civil Beat
Why States Are Losing Battle to Increase Public School Funding– by Christina Russo, teacher
Maui News- The Press Reader Con Am OpEd – by Deborah Bond-Upson
Background on the Con Am Ballot Measure:
After years of efforts by parents and teachers to achieve permanent funding for Hawai‘i schools, the legislature voted to put a measure on the Nov. 6th ballot for a constitutional amendment to allow a surcharge on investment property taxes to fund our Hawai‘i public schools.
EDUCATION FUNDING “CON AM” BALLOT MEASURE
Shall the legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?
We need this ballot measure to pass because Hawai‘i spends the lowest % of county and state funds on education in the country…
- Adjusted for cost of living, Hawai‘i ranks 45th in the nation in per-pupil spending.
- Adjusted for cost of living, Hawai‘i teachers are the lowest paid in the nation.
- Hawai‘i is ranked 49th worst state in which to be a teacher.
- Many Hawai‘i public school students attend school all year without qualified teachers
- Native Hawaiian students are more likely to have unqualified teachers than others.
Taxing investors can give our children an equal opportunity. Hawai‘i is the only state without property tax funding of public education…
- Hawai‘i has the lowest property tax rate in the country.
- Low property taxes lead to high prices for homes and land.
- Foreign owned properties are 64% more expensive than local residents’ homes.
- Off-island investors use Hawai‘i property for gains without paying significant taxes.
- The proposed surcharge is ONLY on investment properties- not on residents’ homes.