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Monday, January 25, 2010
State of the State: Make DoE a cabinet department; fund STEM, robotics
By News Release @ 2:46 PM :: 6314 Views :: Energy, Environment


Repeating her call for the need for structural reform of Hawai‘i’s school system, Governor Linda Lingle announced in her State of the State Address a proposal to offer Hawai‘i citizens the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment that makes the Department of Education a cabinet department with a superintendent hired by the next governor so everyone will know clearly “where the buck stops.”

The current school system lacks clear lines of authority, responsibility and accountability. Because the Governor, the Legislature, the Board of Education, the Department of Education, and the Superintendent of Education all have roles to play, the public does not know who to hold accountable for consistently mediocre performance.

The Lingle-Aiona Administration’s proposal would make the next governor accountable for public education.


PURPOSE:        To amend Hawai‘i’s Constitution by making the Department of Education into a cabinet-level department.

JUSTIFICATION:        The current governance structure of public education in Hawai‘i has proven over the years that it is incapable of effectively managing the resources or producing the results necessary to meet the educational needs of Hawai‘i’s children.

        Accordingly, this bill amends the State Constitution in order to create an educational system with clear lines of accountability, from which students, teachers, parents, and the community at large will be able to hold government leaders accountable. 

Specifically, this bill amends the State Constitution to make the Department of Education into a “principal department of state government” (i.e., a cabinet department). The State Constitution provides generally that a principal department has its leadership (whether an executive officer or a board/commission) nominated and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appointed by the Governor.  The intent of this measure is to lay the constitutional groundwork for changes in statutory law that provide for a Department of Education headed by a superintendent that is appointed by Governor and confirmed by the Senate, similar to other departments of state government.  Under this structure, a board of education becomes unnecessary.

        Thus, this measure will make the Governor directly accountable for the condition of public education within the State, as the Governor will be held accountable for his or her selection of superintendent, and the subsequent educational performance under that superintendent.  This will improve the State’s ability to effectively and expeditiously manage educational resources and execute policies and procedures.

        A companion measure is being introduced to make the necessary statutory amendments that set out the specific structural details of this new relationship between the Governor, the superintendent, and the Department of Education.  Provisions in that measure would repeal the powers and duties of the publicly elected Board of Education; establish the Department of Education within with state administration to serve as a cabinet-level department; and authorize the Governor to appoint the superintendent of education, subject to confirmation by the State Senate.  The measure would take effect upon ratification of this constitutional amendment.

Impact on the public: Increased government accountability will lead to improvements in the State's public education system, from which students, teachers, families, and the community will benefit.

Impact on the department and other agencies: Clear lines of authority in the governance structure of public education will create greater stability and allow for a more expedient execution of policies and procedures that govern the Department of Education.

GENERAL FUND:        None.

OTHER FUNDS:        None.

EFFECTIVE DATE:        Takes effect upon compliance with article XVII, section 3, of the Constitution of the State of Hawai‘i.

ATTACHMENT:        Proposed organizational chart.

  *   *   *



HONOLULU – Governor Linda Lingle announced today in her State of the State Address that she has authorized the use of $2,805,200 in federal stimulus funds to enhance robotics education programs in Hawai‘i’s schools. 

The funds will be provided to the University of Hawai‘i College of Engineering, which will disburse the money to the Friends of Hawai‘i Robotics, a not-for-profit organization formed for the purpose of supporting the Robotics Organizing Committee (ROC) and robotics educational programming in the state of Hawai‘i. 

The grant money, $1,097,200 this year and $1,708,000 in the next fiscal year, is designed to help foster robotics education and expand students’ learning of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) throughout their schooling, while preparing them for careers in the global economy. 

“Robotics education has become an integral part of our efforts to prepare Hawai‘i students for the global economy,” said Governor Lingle.  “While we work to develop an innovation economy with high-technology careers based in Hawai‘i, we must also ensure our state’s workforce is ready for the future opportunities.  Robotics students will be among those who develop viable solutions to our local, national and global challenges.  They will ensure Hawai‘i stays at the forefront of the global economy.”

The funds will be used to purchase robotics kits and curriculum packages for schools, provide teacher workshops and professional development training as well as cover operating costs of competitive robotics events which occur year-round.

“The robotics programs are truly effective in engaging our youth – our future – in the excitement and wonder of science, technology engineering and math,” said University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw.  “All of the partners, certainly including highly committed teachers, sponsors, mentors and volunteers, contribute to the success of these programs and such efforts have a positive impact on Hawai‘i’s future.  UH-Mānoa is also definitely excited about having the participants as our students in the future.”

The Hawai‘i Robotics Organizing Committee (ROC) was formed last year to bring together the six robotics programs – FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Robotics, Botball, VEX Robotics, Underwater Remote Operating Vehicle and Micro Robotics – which previously operated independently. This is the first time all six of the robotics programs have coordinated their efforts to promote robotics education in elementary, middle and high schools statewide.  (

Over the past 3 years, student participation in robotics education has grown tremendously.  Currently, 182 public, charter and private schools have robotics teams in one or more of the six robotics programs, accounting for 47 percent of Hawai‘i’s schools. 

Robotics education is a key component of the Lingle-Aiona Administration's Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative, which seeks to transform Hawai‘i’s economy from one based on land development to one based on the innovative capacity of Hawai‘i‘s residents, especially our youth.

The $2.8 million funding is being made available to the state under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, Part B as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that was passed by Congress last February.  Governors have discretion over how to use Part B funds, which for Hawai‘i total approximately $35 million.  Governor Lingle has elected to dedicate all of the Part B funds toward public education, with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 




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