This page is all about the issues and where Michelle stands on them. Read below to find answers to questions from others or submit your question and check back here for the reply. Mahalo for taking the time to learn more about all the candidates and making an informed voting choice. Aloha!
You're first question is probably, "How do you guys pick the questions?"
Well, the first questions all came from different groups and associations in Hawaii. Many of these groups choose a candidate to recommend to their members based on the answers to these questions. Some groups simply publish the answers they receive and let their members decide for themselves. We think you should have access to the answers too, so here they are!
If you have questions you would like to submit, please email them to: and we will try to answer them here.
The Jones Act
First – what the heck is it!?
In 1920, the US passed laws that regulate the way the water-based shipping industry functions. The current law outlines that ships which travel to multiple US ports in a row must be built in the US and manned by an almost exclusively US-born crew.
This prevents US companies from buying less expensive, competitively priced ships built in other countries and prevents foreign companies from traveling to multiple US ports without traveling to a foreign port in between. Most US states are not affected by this legislation because they generally already receive their goods either through only ground transportation or via a single US port that is peripheral to a foreign port, such as in Southern California/Mexico, Washington/Canada, Florida/Caribbean, Texas/Mexico, etc.
The states of Hawaii and Alaska are disproportionately affected by the shipping regulations. For example, as the laws stand currently, foreign ships are unable to stop at Hawaii-based ports to drop off/load cargo and then continue to the US mainland due to the restrictions around shipping the Jones Act imposes, Ships moving from one island to another within the state are also restricted.
Historically, the Jones Act has been faithfully protected by the US shipping industry, as it allows them to maintain a virtual monopoly on shipping in the US. Studies estimate about 30% of Hawaii’s cost of living results from the Jones Act regulations.
When looking to change the Jones Act for Hawaii (and Alaska), recognizing the dedication the shipping industry has to protecting these laws must be considered. Creating legislation the shipping industry will concede to is vital. I believe this can be done by passing a simple amendment to the current law that exempts US ports more than 1000 miles from another US port from the restrictions outlined in the Act. This is a reasonable compromise that maintains the restrictions the US shipping industry works so hard to protect; meaning, the change would be easier to pass. Additional amendments should be made over time to eliminate the legislation completely; however, making a change for the states that had no say in these regulations as laws is a meaningful and necessary first step.
Accessibility for Restricted Mobility
Changes I would like to work toward for accessibility include reducing the current programs administered by the government and reinvesting the funds previously set aside for those programs into the nonprofit sector. Nonprofit organizations must go through a certification with the IRS to receive 501c status and grant monies can be awarded equally to all qualifying groups.
For example, organizations like RAD (recreation adapted society) and Adaptive Freedom Foundation help people with disabilities engage in outdoor activities and watersports safely. This is an invaluable resource and community-based approaches will allow the programs to be tailored to the community served. It’s possible to reassign control of many government run programs to nonprofits; the current, government-run approach is failing and taking these programs out of the government will reduce the funds needed to give the same amount of help.
In government run programs, all offices must have a “chain of command” or list of bosses/managers/directors/etc that runs all the way to the President. Nonprofit organizations do not need these layers of employees because the organization’s employees stop where the organization’s scope of responsibility stops.
Similar to my commitment for the “safe streets” program that rolled out a few years ago to ensure bicycle safety on the road, I am committed to safe streets for people with mobility restrictions. I have traveled to several countries with wheelchair users and have seen the dangers and injuries caused by inaccessible sidewalks and pathways. I would like to look at innovative companies, like AccessTrax, for creative, functional and cost-effective solutions for the accessibility issues faced in Hawaii and beyond.
COVID Stimulus and unEMPLOYMENT benefits
I’ve emphasized the reality that the “federal funds” so many politicians want to promise simply do not exist. This is true, our government is approaching 30 TRILLION dollars in debt and there is no end in sight. We cannot look to the promise of more federal money, there is NONE.
We MUST look to the funds we already have and restructure our programs to reduce spending. The goal is to keep programs that function properly and cut the programs that do not, along with reinvesting funds into the charity sector to encourage locally developed solutions that will work for the communities served.
Currently, the US government has been sending out disbursements as a bandaid for the gaping wound that COVID has ripped into our economy. These disbursements fail to address the issue properly and do nothing to stimulate stability for small business, where it is most needed. While the stimulus checks seem like a boost to most US families during this recession, approaching the stimulus process in a manner similar to European countries works better to stabilize the economy and protect small businesses from permanent closure.
Instead of sending stimulus checks to individuals, the government can make payroll disbursements to businesses that will allow them to continue to pay their employee wages. Individuals still end up with the funds, however small businesses also benefit by maintaining their workforce.
This works better because people receive the wage they are accustomed to and businesses are able to maintain their employee base without overleveraging their budget or taking out loans. Funds would be specifically for payroll and would not be eligible to apply to other expenses. The government could also suspend taxes for individuals and small businesses (under 100k in annual earnings) in 2020 and 2021 to allow US citizens and small businesses the opportunity to recover more quickly.
Opportunity Begins with Great Public Schools for Every Student, Ensuring Every Student Has the Opportunity to Learn
Q: Do you support public schools having reliable, sustained, and appropriate streams of revenue and resources suitable to address individual student needs?
A: Yes, so long as “stream of revenue” does not refer to developing commercial interests. Schools should be concerned with conveying knowledge to students, not making a profit.
Q: Do you support increasing Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding?
A: I support funding that facilitates a learning environment for students that qualify under the IDEA.
Q: Do you support increasing federal investments to help states expand public high- quality prekindergarten programs and to ensure all children have access to full-day kindergarten?
A: I support full day kindergarten programs and believe preK to be beneficial. I believe State funds are the appropriate source of funding.
Q: Will you urge Congress to support increased federal investments in and commitment to Indian, Native American, and Alaska Native education?
A: Yes, the financial obligation held by the federal government to the indigenous people of the US is well established and should be honored.
Children’s Health, Wellness, and Safety
Q: Do you support ensuring healthy nutrition standards for school meals and snacks, such as the standards outlined in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act?
A: I support healthy nutrition standards for school meals and snacks however I am unfamiliar with the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act and need to review it prior to endorsing the standards in it.
Q: Do you oppose any cuts or attempts to block grant funding for school meals and child nutrition programs, particularly the Community Eligibility Provision?
A: I do not support legislation that would hinder children from getting nutritious meals in schools. I am not familiar with the Community Eligibility Provision.
Q: Do you support federal funding for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which offers valuable professional development and high standards for educators to further their practice?
A: No, funding for the Board should come from a combination of grants and dues.
Q: Do you support providing funding that can go toward training for education support professionals (i.e., custodial and maintenance personnel, school bus drivers, paraeducators, secretaries, computer technicians, etc.) and specialized instructional support professional (i.e., nurses, speech pathologists, psychologists, etc.)?
A: No, that training should be part of their educational background or continuing education requirements.
Accountability for All Public Schools
Q: Do you support holding charter schools, including online charter schools and for-profit charters, to the same standards of transparency (i.e. financial, holding public board meetings, and reporting that includes the preservation of historical data) as all public schools?
Q: Do you support holding charter schools, including online charter schools and for-profit charters, to the same accountability standards/requirements (i.e. civil rights, employment, health, labor, safety, educator qualifications) as all public schools?
Q: Do you support reducing the number of federally mandated high-stakes standardized tests and allowing local teacher-designed methods of assessing learning?
Q: For the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), do you support expanding the options available to demonstrate student learning and school performance, such as locally developed assessments, among other options?
Q: More specifically, within ESEA do you support requiring the meaningful inclusion of opportunity and school climate indicators that highlight disparities, such as students’ access to school counselors, nurses, technology, and advanced placement courses?
A: No, I feel that we should not use standardized testing as an indication of preparedness for promotion. Disparities in resource availability is an issue, as education systems are meant to teach a minimum set of core skills and assist students in preparing for their chosen academic/employment path. It is valuable to explore options that reduce the disparity gap as opposed to simply “lowering the bar” regarding student performance.
Section B: Opportunity Requires an Economy that Works for America’s Middle Class Creating a Fair Economy
Q: Do you support raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to at least $15.00 per hour, which would benefit many education support professionals (i.e., custodial and maintenance personnel, school bus drivers, paraeducators, secretaries, computer technicians, etc.), and tying future wage increases to inflation on an annual basis?
A: No. The rate of minimum wage does not prevent education support personnel from receiving a more appropriate wage. The ISD is responsible for setting salary/wage rates and should raise the compensation if it is inadequate. It is not appropriate to raise minimum wage federally based on local economic demands. Many reasons exist for placing the responsibility of education administration locally, this is one of them. To make a federal increase in the minimum wage would mean a nationwide increase in all wages of all areas regardless of cost of living demands. I agree there is a need for greater wages in Hawaii, California and other high demand economies but I also recognize that not all states bear this burden - such as Indiana, Oklahoma or Nebraska - where the cost of living is significantly lower. I feel it would be far more appropriate to address issues like the Jones Act, which cause expenses to be much higher in Hawaii. If the cost of living in Hawaii was reduced, the wages currently offered would go farther in citizen’s budgets.
Q: Do you support adequate funding for the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights so it will have the necessary resources to ensure equal education access for all students through data collection, research, investigation, and enforcement of both individual and systemic civil rights complaints and demonstrated problems in our nation’s schools?
A: No, I feel that this process would be conducted with more integrity if done by a 501c that has an independent budget from the entity they are expected to investigate. Enforcement of their recommendations could be conducted by the state judiciary.
Q: Do you support amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex in the areas of public accommodation, such as education, employment and public spaces?
A: No, if this is a persistent problem, we should go to a unisex bathroom system like the rest of the planet. The fact that people want to fight over who gets to use which toilet is a bit excessive and absolutely unnecessary. I believe the unisex system would be the most appropriate, economic and non-invasive solution in relation to this issue.
Federal Role in Education
Q: Do you believe the federal government has a role in fostering educational excellence and equal access for all public school students?
If yes, please provide a short answer describing what you believe that role should be. If no, please provide a short answer describing why you believe the federal government should not play a role in public education.
A: I feel that federal funding for education systems should be awarded differently and that outside of program-based funding (discussed below) the federal government should have virtually no role in the school system. Programs for schools should be developed at the local level. When students and teachers are able to cooperatively develop an academic environment that engages students and gives instructors the versatility to explore multiple modalities of learning, academic excellence follows naturally. I definitely think that students should enjoy equitable access to academic programs and facilities and I feel that accessibility measures a school takes to accomplish that should be funded as a program under the same award system (outlined below).
When I mention program-based funding, I am referring to a funding system that awards academic funds based on the programs offered without a hierarchical framework. The school develops their programs to include budget and applies for federal funding for each program. Federal grant funds would have award caps but schools with exceptional student population could apply for exemptions. Schools would need to demonstrate student/community demand for programs based on student enrollment and would have the ability to offer a more community appropriate academic catalog because the programs are developed at the local level. Schools would be able to introduce programs for arts and music again; classes that teach our youth essential life skills like personal budgeting, character development and basic nutrition could also be reintroduced.
In addition, programs that teach vocational/technical trades to students not interested in college could be developed so that students can explore their personal academic goals, which would improve student performance, participation, attendance and behavior.
Personal Experience in Public Education
Q: What is your personal background or experience with public schools?
A: I have a widely varied personal background and experience with public schools. The smallest public school district I have attended consisted of less than 60 teachers at the time (for the entire district), which was in Holland, Texas. The largest public school district I’ve attended is the Houston ISD, it currently employs nearly 15,000 teachers and has nearly 27,000 total employees. I have attended many schools in between and have been a student in 5 states: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Ohio and Texas. My father was in the US Navy so we moved often. I was in “gifted” programs and attended Jr. college part time during my senior year of high school, I also attended several upper level schools and have 2 degrees and over 150 hours of collegiate study. I also have 4 grown children, which gives me experience as a parent in public school systems, from K-12 (times 4). As a parent I also experienced special education programs and access, as one of my children is autistic.