Among a number of acts pertaining to education that Gov. Green signed into law in a ceremony on Monday were measures granting the state’s new School Facilities Authority access to millions more dollars and considerably more flexibility to develop teacher housing and preschool classrooms.
Among a number of acts pertaining to education that Gov. Green signed into law in a ceremony on Monday were measures granting the state’s new School Facilities Authority access to millions more dollars and considerably more flexibility to develop teacher housing and preschool classrooms. But Gov. Green and Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke acknowledged later that the state Department of Education must organise and complete a backlog of more than $1 billion in ongoing construction projects in the interim to keep its appropriations from expiring.
At a joint signing ceremony and news conference at Royal School in downtown Honolulu, Gov. Green signed four laws pertaining to Hawaii’s public schools into law. He cited several statistics that demonstrate the critical requirements of Hawaii’s public education system, including the 66, 000 island residents who lack a high school diploma and the 1,200 teaching openings that result from the state’s ongoing teacher deficit each year.
Senate Bill 941 establishes a wide range of previously unheard-of powers for the School Facilities Authority, a relatively new organisation established by the 2021 Legislature to take over capital improvement projects from the DOE, and appropriates $170 million for the construction of housing for teachers, educators, and staff.
The School Facilities Authority has gained new authority as a result of SB 941, including the ability to collaborate with public and private organisations to develop classrooms and on- and off-campus housing for teachers, educators, and staff; to request the services of any state or county agency; to manage the leasing and property management of housing projects; and to transfer the property to another public organisation. Despite being housed within the DOE, the School Facilities Authority only serves administrative functions and functions separately from the DOE.
At the signing, state senator Michelle Kidani, leader of the Senate Committee on Education and author of SB 941, said, “We all know providing financial incentives and reasonable housing options for our teachers is vital to attract and retain great educators. The high cost of living and lack of readily available affordable housing make it particularly difficult to attract and keep teachers in Hawaii. The budget’s allocated funds are a fantastic first step towards addressing this urgent need.
House Bill 960, which Gov. Green also signed, officially adds prekindergarten facilities to the purview of the School Facilities Authority by transferring a prior appropriation of $200 million for preschool classrooms to a more adaptable special School Facilities Special Fund.
By combining repairs and new construction, the School Facilities Authority must gradually provide 465 classrooms so that all 3- and 4-year-olds in Hawaii have access to preschool by 2032. The newly added classrooms will join the state’s Executive Office of Early Learning’s existing 37 public preschool classrooms.
Luke, who is leading the preschool programme, stated that in 1989, the state Legislature approved law requiring all 3- and 4-year-olds in Hawaii to have access to preschool by the year 2000.
The present preschool programme is “the culmination of the work by a lot of the partners sitting here in the private sector, community leaders, counties, charter schools, Department of Education, and so many other departments,” according to Luke. “It combines a number of goals that were established in 1989. I’m therefore incredibly grateful to this governor for making it happen. Things that we once thought impossible are now occurring.
In a subsequent statement, Gov. Green stated that the four new legislation and several more that were signed in June give the roughly 169, 000 students who attend public and charter schools in Hawaii essential support. To ensure high-quality teaching and learning, Green added, “a number like that highlights the need for sound policies and support systems, adequate funding, and resources for employees.”
When asked about the DOE’s alleged over $1 billion backlog in school building projects, Gov. Green responded, “We are playing catch-up on a lot of different issues that have kind of built up over the years, particularly during COVID.”
He stated that two areas he wants to concentrate on are housing for teachers and state Department of Hawaii Home Lands housing difficulties. “This is our chance to really accelerate,” he remarked. In a different interview, Luke also admitted, “We really need to deal with the billion dollars’ worth of backlog.”
She expressed optimism that the School Facilities Authority will be able to leverage the knowledge it is gathering on streamlining preschool construction to collaborate with the DOE “to figure out the issue, because that is a lot of money,” she said. “If they don’t use it within a certain amount of time, that money lapses; then they would have to go back to the Legislature and ask for right to reappropriate.”
Massive budget cuts that have been planned for Hawaii’s public schools for the next two years have divided legislators and state education authorities. Senate Bill 1344, which changes the title of “school health aides” to “school health assistants” and allows them to administer medication to public school students with the consent of a health care provider employed by the state DOE, Department of Health, or a healthcare service, was also signed into law by Gov. Green.
Gov. Green Says About Health Clinics
Gov. Green stated that he would eventually like to see a health clinic at every school. Also approved by the governor is House Bill 503, which mandates that the state Board of Education “examine the future of computer science as a part of statewide high school curriculum.”
The legislation directs the BOE and DOE to “determine whether making computer science a graduation requirement would be in the best interests of public school students and the public” and to “undertake an analysis on the necessary timeline and appropriate process for implementation of making computer science a graduation requirement by no later than the 2030-2031 school year.”
At the press presentation, the final draught was hailed as a significant advancement. “The current and future impact of technology cannot be overstated, from artificial intelligence to advancements in healthcare, renewable energy, and agriculture, “
At the press conference, David Sun-Miyashiro, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy organisation Hawaii KidsCAN, made a statement. The legislation, he continued, will improve “equity and access to computer science courses for all of Hawaii’s students so that the STEM fields will finally reflect the diversity of our state.”