State Supreme Court Knocks Ambitious Hawaii School Funding Question Off Ballot

By Daarel Burnette II — October 24, 2018 1 min read
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With just a few weeks before this year’s election, Hawaii’s supreme court has knocked from the state ballot a measure that would have instituted the first statewide property tax in order to financially shore up Hawaii’s statewide school district.

The state’s teachers’ union had heavily backed the measure, staging a statewide protest earlier this month in order to make the public aware of what it called desperate conditions caused by years of budget cuts, including a rolling teacher shortage, delapidated schools, and lagging academic outcomes.

The ballot question would have allowed the legislature to enact a statewide property tax strictly for the use of public schools. (Unlike every other state in the country, Hawaii’s schools are almost completely dependent on income and sales taxes.).How much money such a measure would have provided schools would be entirely up to the legislature. But the state’s supreme court last week agreed with several county politicians who have argued for months now that the question’s language was too confusing for voters.

That’s sent the state’s teachers back to the drawing board.

“This is the beginning,” Corey Rosenlee, the president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said at a press conference Monday, according to local media. “This is a problem that we must solve,” Rosenlee said. “We still have 1,000 classrooms without a qualified teachers. This must be our moral imperative. At the end of the day, this is about one thing. This is about our keiki (children).”

Colorado, Missouri, and Utah all have statewide questions on their ballots this year that would lead to a significant school funding increases.

But, similar measures in Arizona, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Utah were taken off the ballot in recent months because of either confusing language or after their supporters negotiated with the state legislature.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.