Volunteers such as public school parents, children’s advocates and teachers canvassed Honolulu neighborhoods while others on neighbor islands handed out campaign literature at fairs and markets Saturday, campaigning in favor of the constitutional amendment to better fund public schools.
They used their grassroots “people power” to combat the unfair and inaccurate criticisms made by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, luxury developers and realtors, who are bankrolling a campaign to kill an amendment that would generate a new revenue stream to improve Hawaii’s chronically underfunded public schools. Today’s efforts were aimed at getting our point across with likely voters one-on-one, because Con Am supporters will be outspent by the wealthy business interests who are on the other side.
Besides canvassing in the Kalihi area of Oahu today, volunteers on neighbor islands took their message to voters in other ways.
“In this campaign, we know that there are going to be very wealthy people who are going to misinform voters and try to scare people saying it’s going after renters, it’s going after mom and pop stores. And that’s just being deceptive and not telling the truth,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee. “Hawaii is the only state in the country that doesn’t use property taxes to fund public schools. The surcharge would be aimed at second and third homes worth more than $1 million, so it’s not targeting average Hawaii homeowners. We know that if we can talk to people and tell them this, then they will support it.”
Cindy Tong, a social studies teacher at Ewa Makai Middle School, along with her husband Paul, a retired teacher, was among the volunteers who walked house to house in Kalihi Saturday morning.
“We want to educate the public about how important it is to fund our public schools, finally,” Tong said. “I really feel that these people will support us as long as we let them know what’s at stake, and how they can help us.”
Underfunding, aging facilities and high teacher turnover have bad effects on school children, Tong said.
“Just last year, I had three different science teachers in my wing. The poor kids. They see one teacher for three months and then, boom, she’s gone because it’s too expensive to live in Hawaii. And then a new teacher replaces her and she doesn’t know what subjects the students covered and she doesn’t know the students’ names and then two months later, she’s gone and they get another one,” Tong said. “So we have some really troubled kids who are trying desperately to learn, but they can’t keep learning if the ground keeps shifting under their feet.”
Deborah Bond-Upson, a founding board member of Parents for Public Schools Hawaii, also knocked on doors in Kalihi Saturday for the Con Am.
“It’s been heartbreaking to see that we have children going to school day after day without a permanent qualified teacher,” Bond-Upson said. “I’ve been in education all my life and I have four kids who went through public school, and I know from research, that if I child lacks a qualified teacher for two years in a row, their learning can be permanently affected.”
The amendment will be on the general election ballot Tuesday, Nov. 6. Polling places across the state will open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Election Day. To register to vote, find your polling place and other election information, including how to vote early by mail or in person, go to http://elections.hawaii.gov/.
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