Bills Overhauling Charter School System Signed Into Law
Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Tuesday signed into law two bills designed to strengthen Hawaii’s charter school system.
Senate Bill 2115 replaces Chapter 302B of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, the 1999 law that established governance over charter schools.
The new law establishes changes based on recommendations from a task force created last year by the state Legislature. The measure helps clarify lines of authority and relationships among stakeholders in the in the charter school system, the Senate said in a statement.
“Senate Bill 2115 puts in place a solid system of governance that will be good for our students, families and community,” said Sen. Jill Tokuda, who represents parts of windward Oahu and chairs the Senate’s Committee on Education.
“It ensures that charter schools maintain the autonomy and flexibility they need to be innovative while providing the requisite level of accountability as these are public school students, and taxpayer dollars,” she said.
Senate Bill 2116, the other bill signed Tuesday by Abercrombie, appropriates funds to help with the transition.
Most of the testimony on the bills submitted during the past legislative session was in support, although some testifiers were concerned about the level of funding for charter school students as compared to those in traditional public schools.
The head of the Hawaii State Teachers Association said the union representing Hawaii’s public school teachers was opposed to the removal in the new law’s of a cap on the number of new and conversion charter schools which could be created. He also encouraged lawmakers to remove a clause in the new law that excluded teachers from the new public charter school commission.
Some of the changes in state law were designed to correct problems identified in a critical review last year from the state’s auditor of the charter school system.
The auditor’s report said that the Charter School Review Panel failed to hold charter schools accountable for student performance and that school operations failed to comply with state law and principles of public accountability.
There are currently 32 charter schools in the state, including 14 on the Big Island.