Parent & Children’s Groups Back Constitutional Amendment
A coalition of parents, children’s and community groups spoke in favor of a constitutional amendment on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, as some county government and business people made misleading complaints about the proposal, according to a press release from the Affordable Hawaii Coalition.
“Every child in Hawai‘i deserves access to a quality education,” said Deborah Bond-Upson, a founding board member of Parents for Public Schools Hawai‘i. “We know we are going to need a grassroots movement to fight against this super PAC that has come up with this cynical approach to drive fear into parents and business leaders that is unwarranted.”
“We believe if we want to be business friendly, we have to have appropriate taxes. Our state should not be a haven for certain investors and developers that then drives the cost of housing up for everyone else,” Bond-Upson added.
Bond-Upson chairs the Fund Our Hawai‘i Schools Coalition, a group of six community groups backing the amendment.
The constitutional amendment is not a tax on everyone, as opponents to the proposal are falsely claiming in TV ads and media statements. It is intended for wealthy people who own a second home valued at $1 million and higher.
“It’s sad that the only tactic that they have is fear, the fear that we’re going to go after renters, apartment owners, senior citizens, farmers, commercial businesses,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee. “This is a specific taxation that we’re trying to do in order to fund our schools. Our opponents offer no way of increasing funding for our schools. Not once have they offered an answer about how they are going to improve our schools.”
Rosenlee and children’s advocates spoke at a midday news conference in front of Central Middle School in downtown Honolulu, an aging school that represents the many sub-standard school facilities across the state. The state Department of Education’s school buildings are, on average, 65 years old.
Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network, said, “If you go and visit schools, we know our infrastructure is way out of date. Some places in our charter schools, we have kids learning under tarps. We think that is unacceptable and unconscionable. Our kids deserve good quality schools.”
“Hawai‘i lags behind the rest of the country in public preschool and we’ve been fighting for 20 years to expand access to preschool,” said Zysman. “We know early learning is the key to children’s success later in life, but we need the money to pay for it.”
“Unfortunately, we put them (students) into environments that are not conducive to learning,” said Rosenlee. “The main reason is that we do not fund our schools well. We rank 45th in the nation in per-pupil expenditure, adjusted for cost of living.”
“Just this past week, Hawaii was ranked as the worst place in the country for teachers. And since 2010, we have seen the amount of teachers leaving Hawai‘i increase by 84%,” Rosenlee added. “And because of that, we have about 1,000 classrooms that do not have a qualified teacher. About one third of our students – or 60,000 students—go to school and do not have a qualified teacher.”
“If this constitutional amendment does not pass,” Rosenlee said, “then there is 100% guarantee that we will not improve funding for our schools.”
The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Polling places across the state will open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Election Day.
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