Hawaii State Department of Education

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Hawai'i State Department of Education

Districts of the Hawai'i State Department of Education

The Hawai'i State Department of Education is the most centralized and only statewide public education system in the United States. Established by Kamehameha III on October 15, 1840, it is the oldest school system west of the Mississippi River and only system established by a sovereign monarch. The Hawai'i State Department of Education oversees all 283 public schools and charter schools and over 13,000 teachers in the State of Hawai'i. It serves an average of 182,798 students annually.



There are seven individual school districts that are directly controlled from Honolulu by the fourteen members of the Board of Education: Central District, Hawai'i District, Honolulu District, Kaua'i District, Leeward District, Mau'i District, Windward District. Thirteen members are directly elected by the voters of either O‘ahu or the Neighbor Islands to staggered four-year terms. The remaining member is a public high school student selected by the Hawai‘i State Student Council who serves as a non-voting member.

The Board of Education is empowered by the State Constitution (Article X, Section 3 [1] (http://www.hawaii.gov/lrb/con/conart10.html)) to formulate statewide education policy. The Board also has the power to appoint the Superintendent of Education as the chief executive officer of the system. The Superintendent reports to and can be terminated by the Board.

Relevant debates

Probably the most current and controversial debate over Hawai‘i school reform has to do with the structure of the State Department of Education: specifically, whether it should remain centralized or be broken into smaller districts. The main rationale usually given for the current centralized model is equity in distribution of resources: all schools are theoretically funded from the same pool of money on an equitable basis. (Most schools on the U.S. Mainland are organized into school districts funded from local property taxes; thus more affluent school districts theoretically receive more money and resources than less affluent areas.) Supporters of decentralization see it as a means of moving decision-making closer to the classroom, and thus achieving better student performance.

The debate divides roughly along party lines, with Republicans generally supporting decentralization and the Democrats supporting the centralized status quo. In 2002, Republican Governor Linda Lingle ran on a campaign to reorganize the Hawai'i State Department of Education into smaller school districts that were localed modeled after a system found in Canada. The Democrat-controlled Hawai'i State Legislature, however, voted not to enact this plan in 2003 and 2004.

In January 2004, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wanted to create a system similar to that of Hawai'i in his state but met fierce opposition from local school boards who did not want to lose control.

High schools



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