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Locally Situated Networks: Contextualizing Place-Based Neoliberalism

[This will be the first in a series - the first three entries will lay a factual foundation].

In Hawai‘i, the dense and largely invisible interrelationships between private philanthropic foundations, Department of Education officials, legislators, union leadership, non-profit educational companies, and astro-turf teacher and parent organizations in the early 21st century require further exploration. Hawai‘i is an important case because it brings the relationship between neoliberalism and neocolonialism full circle. The State of Hawai‘i was also one of the few to be awarded an early first round Race to the Top grant under the Obama administration, and the state assumed a national leadership role in the development of the public- private partnerships in public education. The first institutional instantiation of neoliberal ‘public-private partnerships’ under No Child Left Behind was developed under the title of the Hawai‘i P-20 Educational Partnership. In 2003, the University of Hawai‘i, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education, and the Good Beginnings Alliance (now known as ‘Be My Voice! Hawai‘i ’) began with a three million dollar grant from W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and has functioned as a critical institutional site for more almost twenty years in neoliberal educational reform.

In its early form, the Hawai‘i P-20 Council was a group of thirty-three leaders from education, business, labor, government and community. Four state legislators, Roy Takumi, Isaac Choy, Jill Tokuda and Brian Taniguchi, were heavily involved or largely responsible for the bulk of the ‘educational reform’ legislation, such as Act 51 and subsequent supporting legislation, including laws to greatly expand charter schools, lengthen the school day without additional teacher pay, and make it easier for non- educators to teach and administer public schools, which passed through the legislature. The Department of Education and Board of Education, working together in unprecedentedly tight alignment under the leadership of former First Hawaiian Bank president Don Horner, were represented by the state superintendent, Kathryn Matayoshi and Cheryl Lupenui, Student Achievement Committee Chair, Hawai‘i State Board of Education, respectively. The University of Hawai‘i system was represented by John Morton, Vice President for Community Colleges; Eric Martinson, Chair, University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents; M.R.C. Greenwood, President of the University of Hawai'i System; Linda Johnsrud, Vice President for Academic Planning and Policy of the University of Hawai'i System; and Donald Young, Dean of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa College of Education.

The putative interests of UH faculty, public sector workers, and public school teachers, were represented by Randy Perreira of Hawai‘i Government Employees Association, JN Musto, Executive Director of University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly, and Al Nagasako, Executive Director of the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association, respectively. While Perreira and Justo had reputations as ‘fighting’ union leaders, Nagasako was engaged in neoliberal educational reform from his days as Kapolei High School principal. Moreover, the corporate interests on the council were formidable, including Gary Kai, Executive Director of the Hawai'i Business Roundtable, Jim Tollefson, the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i , and John White, Executive Director of the Pacific Resource Partnership. Their conservative tendencies were reinforced and buttressed by representatives of the U.S. military, Col. Ellen Moore, Chief, U.S. Pacific Command Programs Management Division, and the State of Hawai‘i , including Tammi Oyadomari-Chun, policy analyst with the Governor’s Office and former director of the Hawai‘i P-20 Council; and Dwight Takamine, director of the Department of Industrial Relations.

Private schools and the foundations that support them and the further privatization of public education in Hawai‘i had a strangely strong presence on the Hawai‘i P-20 Council, which was meant to shape public policy direction on public education in Hawai‘i. The most important private school, Kamehameha Schools, which is also funded by the one of the most wealthy and powerful charitable trusts in the United States, Bishop Estate, had two representatives: Rod Chamberlain, Vice President for Campus Strategies, and Chris Pating, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Implementation. The president of Chaminade University, Brother Bernie Ploeger, was also included, as was Michael Rockers, the superintendent of Hawai‘i Catholic School. However, the linchpin of this group was Robert Witt, Executive Director of the Hawai'i Association of Independent Schools, strategically positioning the group to further capitalize on the ‘disaster’ of public education in the particular interests of more than one hundred private schools in Hawai‘i. The philanthropic foundations that support both the creative and exciting educational programs at these private schools for Hawai‘i ’s elite and the neoliberal dismantling of the strengths of public education in Hawai‘i were represented by two critical players: Chris Van Bergeijk, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, which channeled and directed most non-profit funding in the state; and Mitch D'Olier, President and CEO of Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, which was the most heavily educationally invested private foundation in the state.

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