With the legislative session off to a productive start, I’ve been particularly inspired by the level of civic engagement our students are demonstrating. Students have had a noticeable presence at the Capitol since opening day, learning from state leaders and participating in this important democratic process. We can draw inspiration from their passion and must continue to foster their desire to have their voices heard.
Earlier this month, I spent a weekend kicking off the 68th Annual Youth and Government legislative session with the YMCA of Honolulu, and last week I spent time with students from across the state who converged on Oahu for the 2019 Secondary Student Conference. There were lively debates, well-informed questions, and critical discussions happening among our state’s future leaders at both events. These students could easily have been taken for seasoned adults with years of experience in the legislative process.It is crucial that we instill in the next generation the importance of civic engagement.
During the 2018 general election, voter turnout in Hawaii continued to decline to 53 percent — tied for an all-time low, and down from 94 percent in 1959, the year Hawaii became a state. This represents a huge missed opportunity, and as adults we need to lead by example. Even before they’re old enough to vote, our students are showing us they are ready and aware of the decisions being made on behalf of their generation. By the way, did you know that there is a proposal to
lower the voting age for state elections to 16?
This is why, for me, student voice is so critical and one of my high-impact strategies to advance the goals of the Department. As we prepare our students for college, career and community, we want them to be engaged citizens who will inspire others to care. We need to equip them with the tools, knowledge and ability to use their voice in a respectful manner as they navigate the world they are inheriting.
HIDOE Legislative Update
The Department continues to monitor proposed bills that stand to impact education in Hawaii, from the expansion of pre-kindergarten offerings to our budget request.
On Jan. 23, the House Finance Committee gave initial approval to the state’s base budget (House Bill 2). However, HIDOE’s operating budget was removed from this bill along with those of several other state departments. Under a new method lawmakers are trying this year, our base budget will be incorporated into a bill introduced by what’s known as Subject Matter Committee, in this case, the House Lower and Higher Education Committee (LHE). A separate bill will also be introduced by LHE to address any incremental changes beyond the base budget.
Our leadership and legislative teams will continue to work closely with lawmakers to navigate this new process and advocate on behalf of our public school students and staff. If you would like to lend your voice to this process, please contact your
legislative representative for your district.