Hirono Backs Education Request, Touts Experience in 2012 Race

October 14, 2011, 4:37 PM HST · Updated October 19, 9:17 PM
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Rep. Mazie Hirono. Official Photo, 112th Congress.

By Wendy Osher

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono today said she is in favor of the recent request filed by the Hawai’i Department of Education for ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) Flexibility.

“The current system is way too restrictive and punitive on schools that do not meet Adequate Yearly Progress,” said Rep. Hirono, who is a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee.

She said the flexibility request will allow the state to use a Growth Model as an alternative way to determine whether students are learning.

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“A Growth Model measures an individual child’s improvement as opposed to a test for everybody.  We want to make sure that individual children are learning adequately,” said Rep. Hirono.

“The state is going to have to show what it’s going to do to close the achievement gap for our students,” said Hirono.

By giving the state flexibility in the way it assesses students, Hirono said, the state will come closer to accomplishing those goals.

In the meantime, the Senate Education Committee, under the leadership of Senator Tom Harkin, has released a bi-partisan bill to re-write the No Child Left Behind Law.

Hirono said the Senate has incorporated some of the thoughts and ideas she introduced as part of an early learning initiative.  “We focused on aligning early childhood standards with K-12–particularly Kindergarten through third grade education–and also focusing on better training for our early educators,” said Hirono.

Hirono also noted that the state is applying for federal grant funding through the Race to the Top challenge for early education.  Under the program, states selected receive $50 million towards the promotion of quality early learning.

“There’s so much evidence that a child who has a quality early education experience, succeeds in school and in life,” said Hirono.  “There’s lots of longitudinal evidence as to that, and this is why so many have said that a quality education is dollars well spent,” said Hirono.

During a conference call this morning, Rep. Hirono also fielded media questions about her 2012 US Senate run.  The interest surrounding the race gained more momentum this week, as former Republican governor Linda Lingle announced her plans to also seek the seat being vacated by the retirement of US Senator Daniel Akaka.

Lingle, in recent media reports, had indicated her campaign’s ability to raise $8 million to $10 million for the race, compared to the $300,000 Rep. Hirono had raised from nearly 2,000 contributors during her campaign’s third fundraising quarter.

“I’m going to raise the money I need to be competitive and to win this race,” said Hirono today.

“As far as her (Lingle) entering the race, I welcome her entry, but she’s never run for a federal office before,” said Hirono, who touted 14 runs for election–the last three of which were for federal office.

Hirono said she would be taking her case to the voters saying, “My experiences on Maui, whether we’re doing foreclosure workshops or coffee talks, they’ve been really terrific in that people know that I care.”

Hirono said throughout the state, concerns have focused on job creation and moving the economy forward.  “That’s what I hear, and I am listening to them,” said Rep. Hirono.

Other high profile candidates who are also in the running for the 2012 Senate race are: on the Republican side, former state lawmaker John Carroll; and on the Democratic ticket, former congressman Ed Case.

Both Hirono and Lingle are making stops on Maui next week.  Lingle has several stops planned on Maui on Monday including a public speaking engagement with the Maui Chamber of Commerce.

Hirono will be visiting Hilo on Hawai’i Island, and Maui for her ongoing coffee talk series next week.  A schedule will be announced in the coming days.

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