The Education Emergency in Hawai‘i:

Our church membership passed a resolution for education equity and quality in August 2018. Why was this needed? Because…

Equal access to education is a fundamental human right. Limited education access and quality perpetuates economic and racial injustice.

The state of Hawai’i is the only state that is one school district,
the only state that does not fund public schools with property taxes,
has the lowest teacher pay in the country and 45th per student funding.

As a result, teacher turnover is highest in the country,
over 1000 classrooms will have no qualified teacher again this year,
Native Hawaiian students are more likely to have an unqualified teacher,
many special needs students do not receive support from credentialed special education teachers,
some schools have inadequate electrical systems, leaks, inoperable bathrooms.

After years of work with the legislature, including a failed proposal for a small GET increase to apply to public schools, eighteen months of committee hearings resulted in the development of a proposal for a surcharge on residential investment properties valued over $1 million (beyond primary residences) to fund education.

On November 6, 2018 voters were to have the opportunity to correct under-funding of public schools.
After years of work with the legislature, including a failed proposal for a small GET increase to apply to public schools, eighteen months of committee hearings resulted in legislative passage by 75/1 for a Constitutional Amendment for education funding aka the “Con Am” was on the ballot for the Nov 2018 election. This Hawaii Surcharge on Investment Properties to Fund Public Education Amendment, Senate Bill 2922, would have authorized the Hawaii Legislature to establish a surcharge on investment properties, with revenue to be used to fund public education.

At the last minute, legislators removed specific terms from the “Con Am” ballot measure.
The legislature amended the wording of the measure to remove the specification of second home residential and vacation properties over $1 million. Removing these terms endangered passage of the measure though legislators maintained that any legislator who would tax more properties than intended would lose their seat and Gov. Ige promised that he would veto legislation that varied from the intent clearly set in the 18 months of hearings.

A Super PAC of business leaders, realtors and developers formed to defeat the school funding measure. This group maintained in glossy mass mailings, frequent television ads, and in events that the language was too “vague” and that the legislature might abuse its power and not follow the intent. Further, the Super Pac spread the false idea that the measure would apply to commercial property and the fear that the measure would raise the cost of living for all, in spite of evidence to the contrary.

Opponents asked the courts to remove the measure from the ballot.
The counties sued that the language was vague and so the Con Am measure should be removed from the ballot. They felt that a state surcharge would limit their property taxing powers. The judge ruled that the language was appropriate and the ballot measure was to remain. But the counties appealed to the Hawaii Supreme court, which ruled, only three weeks before the election, to remove the measure from the ballot, preventing voters from expressing.

Much progress was made in achieving a wider and deeper understanding of the school funding crisis. Most opponents said that they support public schools and that more funding is needed — but they did not agree with the surcharge. Though the state Supreme Court blocked residents from voting on school funding, an understanding has been reached by opponents, proponents, and the public 00 that a funding solution is critically needed.

Our Social Justice Coalition and a number of church members joined the “Fund Our Hawai‘i Schools Coalition”!
Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network, Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action, IMUA, the Education Caucus of the Democratic Party, the Social Justice Council of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i, and parent and community members joined to form the Fund Our Hawai‘i Schools Coalition to support the2018 constitutional amendment and adequate funding for public schools. Since the ballot measure was “invalidated” we will now work with community groups to find a new proposal to properly fund our schools.

All are welcome to join to work to achieve funding to support the schools our keiki, and teachers deserve.

Join Fund Our Hawai‘i Schools Coalition!

Articles of Interest:
Con Am Illuminated School Funding Crisis – HSTA website
The Strange Legislative Path of the Con Am Bill – Gary Hooser, Civil Beat
Why States Are Losing Battle to Increase Public School Funding – Christina Russo, Teacher


July 30, 2017 Service on old Hawaiian values resurgence in Hawai‘i classrooms today and the correspondence with our UU principles:

Our Social Justice Council members presented a service highlighting new and important efforts to raise the “conditions for learning” in Hawaii public schools.

Summary of the service:  A HĀ Moments: Breakthroughs in Learning and Living

Link to the stories and media resources: Stories ofA HĀ Moments” — breakthrough education in Hawaii

Link to the video of the stories from the service: Video of stories from the service