IN THE NEWS:  Ethics Commission limits horizons of Hawaii’s public school students


Ethics Commission limits horizons of Hawaii’s public school students

By Edwin Kagawa and Aaron Kubo

Students in Hawaii are at a disadvantage.

Unlike their mainland counterparts, they have limited access to educational and cultural resources, such as museums and historical landmarks.

This discrepancy becomes even more evident on the neighbor islands, especially for students in rural communities.

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission’s advisory opinion regarding school trips is detrimental to our students and will severely reduce the amount of enrichment activities planned outside the classroom.

It concluded that the free trips provided to teachers who chaperone outweigh the educational benefit to students.

In other words, it decided that it was more important to avoid the potential “appearance of impropriety” that could arise if a teacher does not have to pay his or her own way on these trips, than it is to provide our public school students with opportunities.

Unlike students on the mainland, who have the opportunity to go on field trips that may take them to exhibits with art from Van Gogh or where the Civil War was fought and won, many of our students do not have a chance to leave the state, let alone the communities in which they grew up.

Public school teachers already work with limited resources in their classrooms, and many spend their own hard-earned money on supplies to provide better learning opportunities for their students.

It would be a shame to penalize teachers when they go above and beyond to provide inspirational learning experiences for their students.

Statewide, many teachers, students and parents are left in limbo when it comes to trips that are planned for the current school year.

On the Big Island, 40 students and their families are anxiously waiting to find out what this ruling means for their upcoming trip to Washington, D.C.

While the decision does allow teachers to go on these trips, the teachers would need to pay out-of-pocket, which is close to a month’s salary, putting them in a difficult position: Either come up with the money or cancel the trip.

The biggest impact of this ruling will be felt by our students.

If the commission does not help come up with a solution, students across the state will not have access to these opportunities, because many teachers cannot afford to be paying out of pocket on a school teacher’s salary, in addition to the time and resources they have committed.

As an island state, the barriers for travel are much higher, and even more so for our students from the neighbor islands.

We want to see our students succeed and become educated, contribut- ing members of our community — which is why we need the commission to find a quick solution that will not take away from our teachers and students.

How can we expect our kids — the future leaders, workforce and residents of Hawaii — to help our state thrive if we do not provide the opportunity for them to broaden their horizons beyond the shores of our islands?