LIHUE — About 40 teachers from Elsie Wilcox Elementary School were joined by about 10 students and one mother in holding signs on Hardy Street Tuesday morning.
The group joined Hawaii State Teachers Association rallies across the state asking the public to support schools and keiki by voting “yes” on the constitutional amendment slated to be on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
“This is just one additional source of funding,” said Sharon Saronitman, one of the sign holders. “This is so when we go to the Hawaii State Legislature, they can’t tell us, ‘We don’t have money.’”
Teachers, wearing red HSTA shirts, held signs that said “Vote Yes on Amendment for Keiki and our Schools,” and “Vote Yes to Fund our Schools.”
Many waved to passing vehicles, while some of the drivers honked horns and waved in a show of support.
The proposed constitutional amendment would empower the Legislature to establish a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education.
The Affordable Hawaii Coalition, comprised of community and business leaders, is rallying opposition to the amendment. It argues taxes are already too high in Hawaii, it will drive up the cost of living in the state even more and there is no guarantee the funds will go to public education.
The four Hawaii counties have filed an appeal of a ruling denying their challenge to the proposed constitutional amendment that asks voters to allow state lawmakers to impose real property taxes for public education.
Circuit Judge Jeff Crabtree last month denied the counties’ initial request to stop the proposal from going on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The counties argue the proposed amendment would erode the only source of tax income they are allowed by the state. They are seeking to invalidate the ballot question that’s to be on the November ballot, arguing that the language is vague, unclear and misleading.
Sen. Michelle Kidani of Oahu introduced the bill on behalf of the HSTA, which was frustrated by the lack of funding in Hawaii’s schools. A recent Wallet Hub survey ranked Hawaii as the worst in the country for teachers because of low salaries as well as the lack of both funding and support in the classroom.
Kauai has about 750 public school teachers, including several on Ni‘ihau. Statewide, the HSTA has about 13,700 members.
Most teachers at the rally declined to speak with The Garden Island on Tuesday.