2015 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Education

2015 Hawaii Legislature

The 2015 Hawaii Legislative Session started on January 21. Astonishingly, there were 1,515 bills introduced in the House of Representatives and 1,379 bills introduced in the Senate.

I started off my legislative session round-up by highlighting bills that focus on taxes. With over 2,800 bills being proposed and no legislation-reading minions, I’m relying on bill summaries to accurately reflect the legislators’ intentions.

Here is an overview of the significant education bills being proposed in the 2015 Legislative Session. This is another long post, and I’ve divided the bills into six sections: 3 sets of bills that could make Hawaii more affordable for teachers, 7 bills that could energize students, 4 sets of bills that have government looking over educators’ shoulders, 2 bills that are not necessarily better mouse-traps, 3 sets of bills that tinker with early education, and 7 bills about student health issues. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

3 sets of bill that could make more Hawaii affordable for teachers

  1. Bonuses for effective teachers. HB11 and SB847 would give bonuses to teachers who maintain current national board certification and teach at a school in a focus, priority, or superintendent’s zone. HB1228 would give teachers a $2,500 bonus for becoming a teacher leader. HB1229 and SB842 would give teachers a $5,000 per year bonus to teachers who maintain current national board certification and teach at a Title 1 school.
  2. Tax credits for teachers. HB13 and SB821 would give teachers a state income tax credit of up to $500 for unreimbursed expenses.
  3. Housing vouchers for teachers. HB1016 would give housing vouchers to full-time public and charter school classroom teachers.

7 bills that could energize students

  1. Incentives for finishing high school early. HB1121 would give tuition incentives for public school students who complete their high school graduation requirements before grade 12 and attend a collection within the University of Hawaii system.
  2. Empowering the student member of the Board of Education (BOE). HB1200 and SB834 would allow a student member of the BOE to vote.
  3. More afterschool programs. HB397, HB959, SB980, and SB1128 would establish the REACH (Resources for Enrichment, Athletics, Culture, and Health) program in the Office of Youth Services to fund afterschool programs in public middle and intermediate schools. This could provide students with more opportunities to learn and a purpose (less time for trouble).
  4. More teaching, less class disruption. HB1334 would allow teachers to exclude disruptive or threatening students from the classroom.
  5. More community service in the classroom. HB12 and SB819 would allow student or class participation in a fundraiser or charitable activity in conjunction with a nonprofit organization.
  6. Better citizens. HB1122 would require high school students to pass the United States citizenship exam to receive a high school diploma. This would ensure that young adults know their history and rights, and could motivate them to vote. Of course, I don’t know if I could pass the citizenship exam right now.
  7. Extracurricular activities for home-schooled students. HB468, SB361, and SB954 would allow home-schooled students to participate on an equal basis in extracurricular activities offered at the public school they would otherwise be required to attend.

4 sets of bills that have government look over educators’ shoulders

  1. How many instruction hours in a day? HB14 and SB822 would require all secondary schools to provide 990 student instructional hours and would repeal the requirement that all public schools implement a school year of 180 days and provide 1,080 student instructional hours.
  2. Leave instruction hours up to the schools. HB797 and SB1039 would repeal student instructional hour requirements.
  3. How many tests can one child take? HB1159, HB1406, and SB1243 would require students to take a standardized test early in the school year. Instead, we should cut down on the number of standardized tests.
  4. To multi-track or not to multi-track. SB1346 would require the DOE to develop a transition plan to end multi-track schedules in public schools. This decision should be made by individual schools.

2 bills that are not necessarily better mouse-traps

  1. Crowdfunding in schools. HB692 would allow the DOE to use crowdfunding to fund specific capital improvement projects. Crowdfunding seems like a good idea. But don’t we already have crowdfunding through parent-teacher and Friends organizations? How would this be different?
  2. Compulsory schooling to age 18. HB1280 would increase the age requirement for compulsory attendance at public or private school from 16 years to 18 years. I don’t see the benefit of raising the age requirement. Students may prefer to enroll in a technical school or apprenticeship, or go straight into the workforce. What if students finish high school early? I think we need alternatives to school instead.

3 sets of bills that tinker with early education

Are all three and four-year olds ready for structured school? How much responsibility do parents have for early education? Can taxpayers afford it preschool for everyone?

  1. Junior kindergarten? Let them in! HB762 would change the kindergarten entry cut-off date from July 31 to December 31 of the school year. HB798, HB1066, and SB733 would establish junior kindergartens for “late-born” children with birth dates between August 1 and January 1.
  2. Preschool? Let them in! HB1401 would allocate $3.4 million each year to each of five preschool programs ($17 million per year).
  3. Prekindergarten? Let them in! SB813 would require the DOE to operate pre-kindergarten programs for four and five-year olds. HB820, SB844, and SB863 would establish the Executive Office on Early Learning Prekindergarten Program.

7 bills about student health issues

  1. Opt-out of sex education. HB459 and SB395 would allow parents to opt-out of the DOE’s sexuality health education. HB1333 and SB1185 would require parental consent prior to participation in sex education or classes on sexually transmitted diseases. Should sex education be opt-in?
  2. Advance notice of instruction about controversial issues. HB406 would require public schools to provide parents or legal guardians written advance notice of the instruction or provision of materials or activities that address controversial issues.
  3. Human papillomavirus instruction. HB458 and SB394 would require public schools to provide information about the human papillomavirus to parents or guardians of students entering sixth grade.
  4. Physical exam for incoming seventh graders. HB578 and SB115 would require incoming seventh graders to have a physical examination.
  5. Physical education in middle school. HB1436 would require courses in physical education and health education in grades 6, 7, and 8.
  6. Helping children in anaphylaxis emergencies: HB10, HB1163, and SB846 would authorize DOE employees and agents to volunteer to administer auto-injectable epinephrine to a student with anaphylaxis in an emergency situation.
  7. Helping students manage diabetes. HB861, SB848, and SB1221 would require the DOE to provide care to students with diabetes.

The 2015 Hawaii Legislature adjourns on May 7. Please think about these issues and how they may affect you, everyone around you, and future generations. Whether you have concerns or feel strongly about an issue, speak up, talk about it, and be part of the discussion!

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