HSTA Introduces Sweeping Education Omnibus Bill for 2016 Legislative Session
Proposes Excise Tax Increase to Fund Education Improvements
News Release from HSTA, December 9, 2015
The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) today announced the introduction of an ambitious 10-part education omnibus bill designed to dramatically improve Hawai‘i’s school system. The bill will be introduced during the upcoming 2016 legislative session.
“It’s time to make education a priority in Hawai‘i,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee. “We all recognize the need for drastic change in Hawai‘i’s educational system. For too long our community has had to suffer with crowded, 90-degree classrooms with leaky roofs, inadequate school supplies, buildings in disrepair, and underpaid and overworked teachers.”
“And if we, as a community, are serious about fixing our schools, then we need to enact significant measures that focus on the needs of our students, support our teachers in meaningful ways, remove the harm caused by high-stakes testing, and provide the level of funding that our children deserve. After gathering extensive input and recommendations from teachers, parents, and others involved in education, we have developed an education omnibus bill that can make a real difference in our schools and for our students,” added Rosenlee.
To fund the improvements to Hawai‘i’s educational system, the HSTA is proposing a one percent increase in the State General Excise Tax (GET). Because of the regressive nature of the GET, HSTA is also proposing an increase in the food/excise tax credit and rental excise tax credit so that the GET increase will be minimized for lower income families. To pay for anti-regressive nature of the bill HSTA is proposing that ACT 60, an income tax on the wealthy, which expired last year be reenacted.
“Every year, we say education is a priority, and yet we continue to do nothing about it. Meanwhile, Hawaii’s children are falling behind, as our schools are struggling to prepare students for twenty-first century jobs. We need to reinvest in our public schools to ensure that our children have the skills they need to compete in the worldwide economy. It is an investment in our future and the responsible thing to do,” said Rosenlee.
The omnibus bill focuses on 10 key principles:
1. Educate the Whole Child:
All children should have opportunities for a well-rounded education rich in art, music, drama, PE and Hawaiian Studies. Science and social studies should stand on equal terms with the other core subjects of language arts and math. The bill proposes allocating instructional time and financial resources to teaching visual arts, music, theatre, dance, Hawaiian studies, Native Hawaiian culture and native Hawaiian traditional and customary practices.
2. Support All Students:
Our special education and bilingual students need our support. Their teachers should have a limited case load so that they can give our students their full support. The bill proposes additional preparation time and funding for special education teachers and instructional materials.
3. Recognize that Class Size Matters:
Students are at the center of everything we do. Reduce class size so students can get individualized attention. The bill proposes establishing reasonable maximum class sizes for different levels rather than just recommending a ratio.
4. Create a Career Pathway:
We need to provide a robust vocational education path to rewarding careers, along with a college path. Students are interested in multiple vocations and not all careers require a college degree. Students should be able to pursue a college and a vocational path at the same time, so that when they leave high school, they can be career and college ready. The bill proposes that all public high schools provide vocational, technical and career pathway programs.
5. Provide Quality School Facilities:
Students should have a healthy and safe learning environment; No more classrooms with 90+ degree temperatures, collapsing auditoriums, and leaky roofs. If we honor children, we need to express this by investing in the spaces and places where learning occurs. The bill proposes funding for air conditioning and other capital improvement projects.
6. Properly Fund our Rural and Small Schools:
We need to commit to the success of all our keiki by ensuring that our rural and small schools are funded equitably. Under the current Weighted Student Formula they are unable to fund the necessities such as minimum staffing, classroom supplies, and basic curriculum. The bill proposes adjustments to the Weighted Student Formula to ensure that proper funding levels are provided to every school.
7. Attract and Retain the Best and Brightest to Hawaii’s Public Education System:
Attract and retain high quality teachers. Teaching should be a highly desirable profession, and teachers in Hawaii should be able to earn salaries comparable to teachers in districts with a similar high cost of living.
8. End High Stakes Testing:
We are over-testing our keiki. High stakes tests should not be used to punish schools, teachers, or students. The bill proposes that authentic assessments should be used instead that will provide teachers with formative information to use in the classroom to meet the needs of their students. Parents should have the unrestricted right to excuse their children from high stakes tests.
9. Public Preschools:
We need to ensure that all children get off to a good start. The bill proposes providing funding so that children of all socio-economic backgrounds can have access to preschool.
10. Give Teachers the Supplies They Need:
We need to make sure our classrooms have the resources that teachers and students need. Our teachers should not have to spend their own money to provide the basics supplies for our schools. The bill proposes providing teachers with the funds necessary to buy supplies for their classrooms.
To raise awareness of the omnibus bill, HSTA will be holding a rally at the State Capitol on February 5, 2016 from 3:30 - 6:00 p.m. and is inviting teachers, students and parents to participate in support of improving education in Hawai‘i.
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About the Hawaii State Teachers Association: The Hawaii State Teachers Association is the exclusive representative of more than 13,500 public school teachers statewide. As the state affiliate of the 3.2-million-member National Education Association, HSTA represents and supports teachers in collective bargaining, as well as with legislative and professional development issues.
Read A Penny for Education - GET FAQs » (pdf)
Download copy of the 10 points » (pdf)
Read HSTA’s 2016 Legislative Priorities » (pdf)