Education is important in every community. In Hawaii everyone agrees, in principle at least, that education is critical to the future of our children. The nearest jobs beyond our borders are 2,500 miles away. The economy, once very agrarian, is becoming less and less so. More and more, would-be workers need higher levels of skills and a greater degree of flexibility than in the past.
Hawaii is the only state where the public schools are part of a centralized, autonomous, one-district system. Instead of each community carrying the financial burden for its own schools, a centralized school board on Oahu has jurisdiction over all of the schools. In times when communities suffer major setbacks (like a plantation company closing down, for example), the schools can still operate; the basic funding continues. That funding, however, depends on the health of the state economy. When there isn't enough money to go around, everybody has to bite the bullet.
In the past, the national test scores of students in the public schools have been a great concern. They have been improving with the introduction of the School Community Based Management program, which encourages parents, teachers, supplementary staff, students and community members to get involved in the school. Again and again, it has been shown that when parents and the community take an interest in the school, the students cannot help but benefit.
It has been argued that despite the problems, every Hawaii public school student gets a very valuable education in human relations. Students benefit from working and playing with people from a wide variety of cultures, many of whom are not going to be staying for very long. It could be that as the world becomes smaller and we move towards an even more mobile and more global society, Hawaii's young people may be learning the most important lesson of all -- how to respect and live with different peoples.