Education is one of the most important aspects of a healthy society. I believe that the quality of our schools is a direct reflection of the quality of elected leadership, and improving our schools will improve our society across all sectors. Our inability to secure a qualified teacher in every classroom in Hawaiʻi is a major crisis. We need to provide the funds necessary to ensure that our education system becomes second to none.
Schools Our Keiki Deserve: I support the plan to implement a constitutional amendment allowing the state to tax real-estate investment properties over $1 million at a higher tax rate, and to use the proceeds to fully fund public education.
Special Needs Support: We need to increase the availability of resources for special needs students. I believe that each and every student deserves the right to attend high-quality public schools that prepare them for success. Approximately 6.5 million students—13 percent of students ages 3–21—receive special education and related services in public schools every year in the United States. High-quality programs for students with disabilities should provide differentiated services and supports in inclusive environments with a clear focus on successful student outcomes. Special education and related services could include offerings such as instruction from certified special education teachers, behavioral counseling, speech therapy, support from a paraprofessional, and access to assistive technology.
As a society, we all benefit when education and the success that it brings is available and accessible to as many people as possible. By contrast, failure in education leads to dramatic societal costs through increased contact with the criminal justice system, poor health outcomes, poor employment outcomes, lost productivity and higher rates of homelessness. This is a problem we should all care about and that I am committed to addressing. Special needs students are more vulnerable to this problem and we have a moral obligation to ensure they have the same access to success as any other student.
Create Better Learning Environments: We need to ensure that school facilities are places where children can achieve their best possible learning outcomes. It is unacceptable that some of our schools lack basic infrastructure like working AC units or lockers for female athletes. I support plans to cool the schools with AC units and think that we need to move quicker on this. We also needs to bring our facilities up to alignment with Title IX.
Provide Care and Nutrition: Nutrition and emotional wellbeing are critical learning factors. We should provide a healthy breakfast and lunch to every student free of charge. It’s not just the right thing to do; any investment in health and learning outcomes has been proven to pay social dividends down the road. Additionally, we should provide adequate funding for school counselors, special education, and extracurricular activities. Many don’t realize how much these services have been cut back, or just how crucial these services are to the emotional well being of students.
Establish Culturally Relevant Curricula: We should give teachers the ability to adjust their curriculum to be relevant to the lives of their students, and we should provide teachers with the resources and training to create lasting ties to the communities they serve. We should similarly expand access to and fully fund Hawaiian Immersion Schools, which function as incredibly valuable and innovative learning space for children of all backgrounds
In Hawaiʻi, place-based education that is rooted in history, tradition and culture is particularly important to our underserved Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students whose identities are intrinsically linked to the land and who thrive when they are taught from a culturally relevant standpoint. And for non-islander students, fostering a connection to this place we all love will only serve to develop the next generation of caring, rooted leaders dedicated to making Hawaiʻi the best place it can be for all of us.