With so many important issues facing our elected officials, the HawaiiKidsCAN Action Fund believes that it is critical for education issues to be front and center. That is why we surveyed all 2020 candidates for Hawaii State Legislature through a digital platform. We were thrilled that 45 candidates completed the survey, including nine Senate candidates and 36 House candidates. Voters can click on the link below to view all of the responses we received. In case you do not know which candidates are running to represent you, this website also includes a link to look up your legislative district. Once the file is downloaded, voters can click on each candidate’s name to be taken to their responses.

The HawaiiKidsCAN Action Fund was encouraged by the nuance and thoughtfulness included in the responses. The following is a sample of the issues on the minds of Hawaii legislative candidates as they grapple with the direction to take education in our state. If your candidates were not among those that responded, we encourage you to contact them and ask these questions and others that pertain to education. It is important for candidates to prioritize education in our state’s future.

Summary of responses:

  • 33 candidates (73%) agreed that Hawaii should ensure that all students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before graduating from high school. Of these candidates, 27 (82%) would support a state requirement that the FAFSA or opt out waiver be completed as a qualification for graduation.
  • 32 candidates (71%) agreed that the state should provide public charter schools specific funding for facilities support, given Hawaii charter schools receive no specific funds for facilities despite being public schools.
  • 43 candidates (96%) would support state incentives for schools to offer career-based programs that focus on high-growth, high-wage industries, such as those involving computer science.
In terms of what Hawaii does well in education, responses included:


        • “Hawaii’s education funding model is one of the most equitable in the nation.”
        • “I am pleased the educational system offers a broad range of educational choices.”
        • “Our schools are hubs for community engagement, and we should appreciate that this type of buy-in is fairly unique to our state.”


In terms of what Hawaii needs to improve in education:


        • “The state still needs to address teacher shortages, especially in hard- to- fill positions such as special education and Hawaiian language teachers.”
        • “Let’s close the achievement gap by engaging our communities and developing strategic and executable plans.”
        • “We should amend our State Constitution to allow legislators to establish a statewide property tax on residential investment properties to increase funding for public schools.”


In terms of operating with less funding due to Covid-19 disruptions:


        • “By employing zero-based budgeting (ZBB), all DOE expenses must be justified for each new period.”
        • “The Legislature will have to take a hard look at the general excise or the transient accommodations tax to fund additional needs of the stateof state government.”
        • “Sometimes, the little things add up – the Seattle School District reduced expenses by $20,000 per year by turning off the lights in its vending machines. How many wasteful ‘vending machine’ expenses do we have? Perhaps replacing desk phones with Skype, Zoom, or another service would save our schools money.”


In terms of how Hawaii schools can do better at closing the school- to- prison pipeline:


        • “We need to obtain and make public data on the implementation of school disciplinary policies, so that we can defend against racial bias that undermines student learning.”
        • “The sState needs to provide more vocational training in high schools so that students have the skills, work ethic, and training to start working as apprentices in different trades.”
        • “Schools can provide an atmosphere where poor academic performance and infractions within the school setting are dealt with as opportunities to introduce effective and alternative approaches and interventions in education, mental health, mentorship programming and other creative supports.”


How can Hawaii ensure that all students have access to internet connections and technology in order to participate in quality distance learning?


        • “It will take time to develop the necessary infrastructure in rural areas, but for now, we can use state libraries, community centers and other public facilities as hubs for students to safely gather.”
        • “The state should be partnering with internet providers to boost internet access for all homes in the state.”


How can the public education system be a catalyst for building out new economic industries beyond tourism?


        • “Our schools should double as gigantic ‘think tanks’ where students are incentivized and publicly rewarded for solving seemingly difficult challenges.”
        • “Our government needs to have the foresight to identify the ‘jobs of tomorrow’ and the competencies required for these fields.”


In advance of the 2018 primary and general elections, Hawaii students who represent every type of education option—from traditional public to charter, private and home schools— hosted a candidate forum on KFVE- TV with major candidates vying for the offices of governor and United States Congress, District 1.

During the forum, students posed questions to the candidates and each had one minute to respond. Candidate invitations were determined by public polling and prior televised debate appearances. The following hopefuls appeared in this forum:

Democratic candidates for Governor:
    • Colleen Hanabusa
    • David Ige


Republican candidates for Governor:
    • John Carroll
    • Ray L’Heureux
    • Andria Tupola
Democratic candidates for United States Congress
District 1
    • Ed Case
    • Doug Chin
    • Beth Fukumoto
    • Kaniela Ing
    • Donna Mercado Kim
    • Ernie Martin