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Thursday, January 7, 2010
Hamamoto's DoE resignation: To block Lingle's constitutional amendment?
By Andrew Walden @ 4:06 AM :: 8391 Views :: Education K-12, Labor

by Andrew Walden

According to DoE ex-Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto, she simply walked away from her job on four days notice in the middle of complex, three-way furlough negotiations for personal reasons--because she wanted to retire.  Her sudden and secretive choice had absolutely nothing to do with furloughs or anything else.  Nonsense.  Hamamoto's departure is a maneuver carefully calculated to save the Hawaii Department of Education bureaucracy from reform. 

Quickly endorsed by Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie, Governor Linda Lingle on October 23 announced she will ask the Legislature to put a State constitutional amendment before the voters which would transfer control of the State Department of Education from the existing Board of Education and make the DoE into a cabinet-level department headed by an appointed Superintendent. 

If the DoE becomes a Cabinet-level State Department the buck will stop on the governor's desk.  Because it creates clear lines of accountability, the Governor's proposal is a deadly threat to the DoE bureaucracy, the BoE, and the kleptocratic contractors who extract tens of millions of dollars from the DoE's waste and fraud.

The immediate response to Governor Lingle's proposal by representatives of the DoE bureaucracy and kleptocracy was to demand that the un-appointed and unaccountable Hamamoto be included in Lingle's cabinet meetings.  They were hoping that voters were stupid enough not to notice the difference, but this counter-argument did not take root.  Now they have moved on to Plan B.

The sudden change at the top will be used to characterize Lingle's proposal as "destabilizing" to the DoE leadership.  The bleating media sheep of the HSTA and the DoE will all sing out in chorus:  "We must give Matayoshi a chance.  If she doesn't work out then we can try reform."  Matayoshi has been made interim DoE Superintendent to make this line of argumentation possible.

This rationale was outlined in the sole political statement Hamamoto has made regarding her retirement.  The Advertiser January 4 explains

While Hamamoto said politics were not part of her decision to resign, she spoke out yesterday against a state constitutional amendment proposed by Lingle to make the DOE superintendent a Cabinet-level position, under the governor's control.

"Politics should not be part of what goes on in the school room," Hamamoto said. "The superintendent has to be able to advocate for what is right for the kids. You have to be apolitical in order to advocate for the children. That should be the first priority of a superintendent. The second priority is ensuring organizational stability. How do you ensure stability if teachers and administrators think they will be jerked around every four or eight years?"

Because Matayoshi was former Governor Ben Cayetano's DCCA Director, she may be able to shear away at support for the constitutional amendment among some of Cayetano and Abercrombie's allies within the legislature and amongst the State's pathetic excuse for a political elite.  As Waihee's Lieutenant Governor, Cayetano in 1992 had called for the BoE to become an appointed body.  As Governor, Cayetano tried and failed to break up the DoE into smaller districts.  Cayetano, Abercrombie, and Ed Case are seen as a team working against Dan Inouye, Mufi Hannemann, and Colleen Hanabusa.

Matayoshi's Business Roundtable background, and the fact that she did not come up from within the DoE ranks, will be used to portray her as a change agent.  This too will be a key argument against making the DoE into a State Department accountable to the Governor.

As if on cue, the Star-Bulletin January 6 quotes Cayetano's endorsement of Matayoshi:

"Kathy is smart, honest, innovative and has the courage needed to put the public interests above all else.  As a noneducator, I think she will bring a different perspective. ... She did a great job for me ... and I think she will do the same at the (state Department of Education)."

Then the Star-Bulletin explains the entire game: 

(Matayoshi) is balancing on a political tightrope on her route toward potentially becoming the new head of the state Department of Education.

She is backing a plan between the teachers union and school board that would add more instructional days but not enough to restore all 17 Furlough Fridays.

Meanwhile, she is trying to persuade federal officials to give Hawaii millions of dollars in competitive educational grant money....

Even if one accepts the premise that Matayoshi is 100% sincere in her efforts, the HSTA-DoE furlough reduction plan guarantees that Hawaii will not receive any significant Race To The Top (RTTT) funding.  Teachers' unions nationwide are doing everything they can to sabotage their own districts' efforts to get RTTT money because of the accountability that comes with it.   The desire to avoid RTTT accountability helped motivate the HSTA and the DoE to create furlough Fridays--and remains their primary reason for blocking Lingle's efforts to restore the lost instructional days.   

Lingle's proposed constitutional amendment has political "legs" only because there is a gubernatorial election coming up in November.  Her constitutional amendment, if approved by voters in November, would apply only to the next governor.  In any other year, the legislature would resist handing over more power to a sitting governor. 

All the bureaucracy needs from Matayoshi is for her to make it look good until near the end of the Legislative session.  Then it can be announced that Hawaii won't be getting any RTTT money because of the furlough days.  With the legislature out of session and the election looming, the window of political opportunity will be closed and the DoE will remain under its current unaccountable system.  The political stars will likely not line up again until next time Hawaii has a term-limited Governor--at least eight years from now. 

Pat Hamamoto isn't running away from responsibility.  She is carrying out her responsibility to the bureaucracy by retiring in order to extend the current system of DoE unaccountability for another eight years.

---30---    

Related: 

Furlough settlement: HSTA-DoE to submit new ransom demands to Legislature

HSTA using furloughs to keep “Race to the Top” dollars—and reform out of Hawaii

Lingle: DoE Superintendent should be appointed by next Governor

Furloughs: How Unions and the DoE aim to co-opt protesting parents 

Hawaii budget crisis: Adult Supervision vs Team Chaos 

Furloughs vs Layoffs: The union no-solution strategy

Audit: DoE instructor salaries diverted to "operating expenditure, supplies, and capital items"

DoE Procurement audit: Millions wasted by "fraudulent unethical behavior"

Randall Roth: In Hawaii Education, The Buck Stops Nowhere , Randall Roth dissects Hawaii's failed Department of Education

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