Key Senate committee OKs proposal to better fund our public schools

Senate Bill 1474 was approved the Senate Ways and Means Committee Friday

A school funding proposal, Senate Bill 1474, was approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Friday, March 1, positioning the measure for a vote in the full Senate next Tuesday.

The bill would increase the state's general excise tax by a half-percent to provide hundreds of millions of dollars a year in additional funding to public schools.

Senators support better education funding

“It’s never easy to raise taxes,” said Sen. Kai Kahele (D, Hilo) Friday, before the committee approved the measure. “There (are) very few ways to fund education. It’s income taxes, the TAT (hotel room tax) or it’s GE (the general excise tax), and at some point we need to make a commitment to public education and to teachers throughout Hawaii that we’re serious about the education of our keiki.”

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz (D, Mililani Mauka, Waipio Acres, Wahiawa) said, “Education is a priority for the Legislature, especially for a lot of us here, so we want to at least keep this discussion alive so that we can hopefully find other ways that we can fund education.”

Sen. Kurt Fevella (R, Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, Ewa by Gentry) told colleagues, “If we really believe… how important their education is, sometimes I just feel that we need to put our money where our mouth is.

“We need to make a stand because in our schools. We’re losing our teachers by the hundreds and maybe even thousands, and we’re losing our kids going to the mainland because of our infrastructure and our schools,” Fevella added.

Rosenlee thanks Senate supporters of the bill

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee thanked senators for supporting the proposal, and said he looked forward to a vote next week in the full Senate before the House takes up the measure.

“Our schools are underfunded. We right now are in the midst of a horrible teacher shortage crisis," Rosenlee said. "As we see across the nation, teachers having to go on strike, I would like to see that we are going to prioritize our keiki. We are going to prioritize education and we’re actually going to fund it. This conversation has been going on for years, and I think that it’s time we finally take action.”

Once the Senate approves the proposal next week, it will go to the state House for consideration.

Here's background on the proposal

"RELATING TO TAXATION. Increases the general excise tax and use tax by 0.5% to provide a dedicated funding source for the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii. Takes effect on 7/1/2050. (SD1)"

*Editor's Note: Draft legislation typically includes effective dates that are decades away as a placeholder. The dates are adjusted as these bills progress.

Version SD1 would provide additional funding, 80 percent to public schools and 20 percent to the University of Hawaii, through a half-percent increase in the general excise tax (GET).

View the full measure here.

HAWAII PUBLIC RADIO: Rosenlee spoke on Hawaii Public Radio Thursday in favor of the proposed GET increase and how it could benefit Hawaii's public schools and our keiki. Listen to the broadcast here.

We still need your testimony! Please register now

While testimony is no longer required on this bill, your action is essential as the Hawaii State Teachers Association continues to track education-related bills through the Legislature. Create an account on the Hawaii State Legislature's website here so you can be ready to submit testimony quickly.

During the legislative session, we usually receive just 48 hours notice about committee hearings, leading to our urgent, last-minute testimony requests.

  1. Click on the word Register in the top-right corner to create an account. Fill in your information, check the box marked "I understand and agree to the terms above," and click on Create User.
  2. A confirmation email will be sent to your email address. Check the email and follow the link to confirm your account.
  3. In the Search column, under Bill Status/Measure Status, search for "SB1474."
  4. Click on the Submit Testimony button.
  5. In the next window, on the left, click Continue.
  6. Make sure you check the box that says Support. 
  7. Indicate whether you plan to be at the hearing or not.
  8. Check Individual (which means you are testifying as an individual citizen).
  9. Copy and paste your testimony in the text field or attach it as a document. We've provided a sample testimony below—fill in your name, position, school, district, island, and a personal story if you so choose—but feel free to write your own!
  10. Hit Submit.

Click here for step-by-step instructions with visuals.

Below is a sample testimony that was used for SB 1474. When you use sample testimony, please be sure to fill out all of the bolded fields that call for your personal details, and feel free to revise it to make it your own! Do not cut and paste sample testimony as is.



Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, at 10:30 a.m.

Chair Dela Cruz and Members of the Committee:

My name is [INSERT NAME]. I am a [TEACHER/COMMUNITY MEMBER] at [INSERT SCHOOL] in [INSERT DISTRICT] on [INSERT ISLAND]. I am submitting testimony in support of SB 1474 SD1 to increase funding for public schools and the University of Hawaii by increasing the GET by 1/2 percent. It's a small price to ask for the future of our keiki.

Our children are our future. When teachers instruct their students, [WE/THEY] build the foundation for equality and prosperity for tomorrow’s generations. Every dollar invested in our community’s public schools yields exponential returns, not just for our economy, but for the promise of a more open and democratic society.

Supporting this proposal will lift our public schools in Hawaii into the 21st century. A vote for this measure is a vote for the funding we need to lower class sizes that allow teachers to connect with their students, provide whole child education that includes the arts and Hawaiian studies, provide resources and services for students with special needs, and provide professional pay that reflects the value of our hardworking teachers.

[OPTIONAL: Insert a paragraph or two that begins with the line "We need additional funding for our public schools, because..." You can tell your personal story or share an anecdote about how lack of funding affects your children/students/community, how low pay and a lack of resources are driving teachers in your schools out of the profession, how teachers have to hold second and third jobs when they should be able to concentrate on their students after school, how investing in our public schools is an investment in our society/future.]

To deliver the schools our keiki deserve, please support this bill.

We need your help. Mahalo.