Hawaii Teacher Standards Board Is Oversight Needed- Summary



Prior to the creation of the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board (HTSB), teacher licensing was the responsibility of the Department of Education (DOE). In 1995, the HTSB was created to set teacher standards for licensing Hawaii's public school teachers. In 2001, the Legislature transferred the authority to actually license teachers and other related functions and duties from the DOE to the HTSB.

The HTSB is responsible for setting and reviewing teacher licensing standards, issuing and renewing teacher licenses, approving teacher education programs, implementing a National Board Certification Support program, and many other related duties. In response to Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 83, Senate Draft 1 (2008), the State Auditor released a report on the HTSB in March of 2009. The Auditor reported problems with the HTSB related to lack of oversight over financial matters and procurement operations, failure to renew licenses, failure to apply teacher licensing standards, and exceeding statutory authority by extending licenses. After reviewing other licensing boards, including those found in the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' (DCCA) Professional and Vocational Licensing Division, the Auditor concluded that attaching HTSB to DCCA would be inconsistent with the latter's regulatory structure and experience and would not fit within its primary purpose of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of consumers. The Auditor further concluded that having an independent teacher licensing board "has not yielded sufficient benefits for the teaching profession and students it was meant to serve to warrant its continuation"1 and recommended that the HTSB be abolished and the teacher licensing function and related duties be transferred to the Board of Education.

The Legislature, in Act 2, First Special Session Laws of Hawaii 2009, directed the Legislative Reference Bureau to review the Auditor's report and make recommendations on (1) whether there is a need for oversight of the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board, and how oversight is provided for similar boards; and (2) how to strengthen and clarify interagency roles, responsibilities, and relationships between the Board, Department of Education, and Teacher Education Coordinating Committee.

The Bureau examined the history, duties, functions, and relationships of the HTSB and reviewed the composition and structures of other state teacher licensing boards and administratively attached agencies in the State to compare with the HTSB. It appears other administratively attached boards and commissions function relatively well. The Bureau also explored the relationship of the Teacher Education Coordinating Committee with the HTSB and the DOE, but concluded that interagency issues and concerns arose only with respect to the relationship between the HTSB and DOE.

The HTSB faces several challenges.

  • The board members and executive director of the HTSB appear to misunderstand the nature of the relationship of an administratively attached agency and its principal department, and their respective roles, which seems to contribute to the lack of accountability and oversight of the HTSB.
  • The HTSB appears to have been burdened with more responsibility than it can adequately handle, which may have caused it to lose focus of one of its core duties to issue and renew teacher licenses.
  • The HTSB lacks the necessary resources to enable it to handle all of its present responsibilities. Already understaffed in view of its workload, the HTSB has experienced long-term vacancies in two key positions, the data processing systems analyst and the education specialist. Without a data processing systems analyst, the HTSB has failed to properly monitor the activities of the vendors it hired to develop its online licensing system. The burden fell upon the executive director who lacked expertise or training relating to information technology, contributing to the cost and inefficiency of the project. The absence of an education specialist has caused that position's duties to be shifted to an overburdened Executive Director.
  • Over the course of seven years, the HTSB wasted over $1 million in the attempt to develop an online licensing system. As of November 25, 2009, the online licensing system was not yet operable. More importantly, while the HTSB pursued the development of the online licensing system, it neglected its duty to renew teacher licenses. Instead of renewing teacher licenses, the HTSB exceeded its statutory authority and extended teacher licenses.
  • The HTSB's requirements for license renewal and the renewal process do not comply with statutory requirements. Teachers seeking license renewal for the first time are not required to meet any of the licensing standards, while those seeking subsequent renewals have to demonstrate that they meet only two of the ten licensing standards.

If the Legislature wants the HTSB to remain independent, the Legislature should consider either transferring some of the HTSB's responsibilities to the DOE or give the HTSB more resources to adequately handle its responsibilities. The Legislature may wish to consider transferring the licensing and renewal function, since it has been the most problematic of the HTSB's duties. Other responsibilities that could be transferred to the DOE include the National Board Certification support program and authority over the state approval of teacher education programs. If the Legislature wants the foregoing functions, especially the licensing function, to remain with the HTSB, the Legislature should provide the HTSB with more resources, including a data processing systems analyst, educational specialist, and other professionals to assist with license renewals. Alternatively, the Legislature could adopt the recommendations in Auditor's Report No. 09-05, which include transferring responsibility for the teacher licensure program to the Board of Education and abolishing the HTSB.

If the HTSB is not abolished, the Legislature should consider directing the HTSB and DOE, with the assistance of the Department of the Attorney General, to meet to clarify their respective roles.

If the HTSB continues to have responsibility to renew teachers' licenses, the Legislature should consider requiring the HTSB to:

  1. Review its teacher license renewal process; and
  2. Determine whether the HTSB should:
    1. Modify the licensing standards themselves;
    2. Modify its approach in determining whether a renewal applicant is in compliance by having satisfied all the standards; or
    3. Recommend that the Legislature amend section 302A-805(a), HRS, to conform to the HTSB's present requirements for license renewal and thus eliminate the present conflict with section 302A-805(a), HRS. Finally, to improve oversight and accountability of the HTSB, the Legislature could require the HTSB to include more detailed information in its annual report.