Education, Higher And Way Lower

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - December 28, 2005
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Newspapers keep saying that David McClain has taken himself out of the running for UH president.

It ain’t necessarily so.

At a gathering at his house Dec. 9, McClain emphasized that he never said he’s out - only that he didn’t want to commit to seven years as president and that there should be a national search.

“I never said I was taking my hat out of the ring,” McClain said to me and others.

Here’s my read: He keeps the job if the regents say pretty-please, don’t demand a long-term contract and don’t make it look like they never did a real search.

If I had one wish for the year ahead it would be that Hawaii gets its public education act together.

I’m ashamed to tell outsiders that we pay once for public schools and then pay again, if we can afford it, so our kids don’t have to go to the public schools.

No Child Left Behind is no help because Washington cannot set unfunded, centralized goals which work in idiosyncratic communities.

Hawaii’s Reinventing Education Act 51 of 2004 is disappointing because it left much real decision-making in the hands of the DOE.

Some heresy here: The only way to get reform moving is to break the back of the teachers’ union.


Because almost every reform must be approved in the collective bargaining contract. I like the union bargaining for pay, but it should butt out of management decisions.

I’d like to see principals de-unionized. They are managers.

Even if we had those reforms we’d still be chugging uphill unless we found a way to get more parents involved in their children’s schools. I admit I haven’t a clue how to do that.

We do some fixes, but don’t fix all the right things.

How can principals manage their schools’ money if they have no training in money management?

How can we expect classroom results when - as one prominent former lawmaker wrote me - “surveys show that most of the college graduates who go into teaching come from the bottom of their class.”

We also must have career ladders with merit pay for teachers so the best can move up faster in salary without having to switch into administration.

We have to toughen up discipline and put teachers in charge of their classrooms without fear of being overruled or sued. The breakdown of classroom discipline is a major impediment to learning.

I have no problem with the theory of taxation. Cast a wide net and aim for spots where the ensnared taxpayers will scream the least.

The state does that through the excise and income taxes. The city’s left with property and vehicle-weight taxes and sewer fees. Our property tax is low by national comparison because the state pays for education.

But assessed values have skyrocketed.

A Mainland couple paid close to $4 million for a house in my neighborhood on 5,000 square feet of land. Maybe that’s why my property valuation is up 30 percent and my estimated tax bill up by $1,250 even with my age exemption.

If I were to sell, I’d have no complaint about getting hit with a big tax. But I’m not selling. So I’m increasingly taxed on something of paper-only value. The feds don’t tax me on an increased-value stock unless I sell it.

The problem with property tax is that as assessments go up, rates don’t go down.

The book A Travel Guide to Heaven says heaven is “Disney World, Hawaii, Paris, Rome and New York all rolled into one.”

I guess that means long lines, traffic jams, air pollution, expensive theater tickets and rapidly escalating property taxes.

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