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Teachers, students deserve the best the state can afford

We all have stories of teachers who influenced our lives — for the better, and for the worse.

Teachers are in a unique position to inspire, mentor, uplift and guide our youth. They, perhaps more than anyone except parents, can have a significant impact on their students — not just inside the classroom, but beyond it as well.

Students certainly need to learn the basics of reading, writing and math, but they also need to believe in themselves and their abilities to achieve their goals. Again, teachers play a key role in how students see the opportunities that will come their way. They can rise to the challenge, or shrink from it.

This is why it’s essential we have the very best teachers in our classroom and it’s why we support giving teachers the tools and compensation necessary to be at their absolute best, too.

So when thousands of teachers and parents rallied at the Hawaii State Capitol Monday, we should take notice and listen to their points.

About 6,000 public school teachers and advocates of Hawaii’s public education system rallied for a fair contract for teachers and to lobby for a constitutional amendment to properly fund public schools proposed by the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association presents more than 13,500 public school teachers. As the state affiliate of the 3.2-million-member National Education Association, HSTA represents and supports teachers in collective bargaining, as well as with legislative and professional development issues.

“It’s our responsibility as a community to come together and fight for our keiki to make education a priority,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee. “Instead of just talking about the inadequacy of our school system, we have come up with attainable solutions. Our plan will give all children the quality education they deserve.”

“We need to start paying our teachers better. We need to make sure that every child, regardless of where they live, has a quality teacher in their classroom,” Rosenlee said.

State Sen. Michelle Kidani, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said, “We want our legislators to know that we mean business!”

“Thank you for fighting the good fight. It is about our children. Let us not forget that,” added Kidani, who introduced HSTA’s constitutional amendment proposals in the State Senate.

The HSTA is highlighting a way to fund education.

By levying a surcharge on residential investment properties and visitor accommodations, the state would be able to raise about $500 million a year for education without placing an unfair financial burden on local residents. The proposals are SB683 and SB686 in the Senate and HB180 and HB182 in the House.

We’re not wild about surcharges on visitor accommodations. It seems everyone looks to have our guests pay for some things rather than locals, which while commendable, is questionable.

Yet, finding ways to improve education is, of course a worthwhile investment, no matter how it is funded. Let’s put the future of our keiki at the top of a long state priority list.

“We were encouraged to see so many teachers, parents, students and members of the community gather to raise awareness about our proposals that are designed to significantly improve Hawaii’s school system and create a better future for our keiki,” Rosenlee said.

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