February 27, 2018
Senate Committee on Judiciary Sen. Brian Taniguchi, Chair
Sen. Karl Rhoads, Vice Chair
Re: SB 2922: Proposing Amendments to Articles VIII and X of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii to Authorize the Legislature to Establish a Surcharge to Increase Funding for Public Education
Hearing: Tuesday, February 27, 2018, Conference Room 016
Dear Chair Taniguchi, Vice Chair Rhoads, and Committee members:
This testimony is in strong support for SB 2922, related to the proposed amendments to the State Constitution to authorize the legislature to establish a surcharge to increase funding for public education.
I am writing on behalf of Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i (PPS Hawai‘i), a non-profit organization focused on supporting and improving Hawaii’s public schools through family engagement. Our group emerged from the Furlough Friday crisis, and we have 1,000 members statewide.
As you know, the majority, a total of 180,000 children and youth in our State, attend public schools. Public education is the bedrock of a strong democracy. It is the great equalizer–a place where children from all walks of life can gain the knowledge and skills to become future leaders of our communities. In our public schools, children of all backgrounds, including those from immigrant and low-income families, are exposed to new ideas, can develop their talents, and discover who they are and want to become.
Our children are our greatest asset. Given what is at stake, public schools should be our State’s highest priority, and this should be reflected in our public spending. All children deserve highly qualified and caring teachers, who recognize their assets and challenge them with new and engaging curricula. Every child should walk onto their school campus in the excitement of what awaits them—wonderful teachers and well-cared for and equipped facilities to engage and challenge them to learn.
Unfortunately, we know that our schools are chronically under-funded. We don’t have the resources to recruit and retain the best teachers for all of our schools. When we asked our members what concerned them most about our public schools, we heard about the series of substitute teachers that appeared in classrooms throughout the year. Substitutes, who did not know the subjects they were there to teach. Other parents talked about dilapidated and uncomfortable facilities that made learning difficult. Many mentioned their children’s lack of access to education or in arts, music, and other subjects that engage children and are part of a well-rounded education. The situation is the worst at schools serving children in rural, low-income and neighbor island communities.
Our 1,000 members, whose children are in the public schools, want change. We want the opportunity for the public to vote on the creation of a permanent funding stream that will provide necessary resources for our schools to flourish. This is the time for us to truly invest in our children—to show them that they are our highest priority. Please support SB 2922.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Lois Yamauchi, PhD
President, Parents for Public Schools of Hawai’i