A little healthy competition among schools will not hurt academics or the experience, and it could improve Hawaii’s education system, said Roy Ebert, one of two Republicans vying to represent House District 6.
By encouraging more public charter schools, as well as instituting a voucher system to allow parents some choice of where to send their children, Ebert said natural competition would be created, forcing public schools to either improve or risk losing students, and therefore funding.
“I’m a businessman who believes in competition,” Ebert said. “The best way to improve the public schools here is have them learn to compete.”
He compared the idea to youth baseball. When a team competes and loses, they are then forced to figure out why they did not win and how to do better the next time.
“They learn from it, and that would be the most effective way to improve schools,” he said. “Competition works every time — it’s tried and true and it’s the way you get better.”
As for busing kids to school, Ebert said he was once a school bus driver and understands the importance of getting keiki to school safely. In Texas, the local school boards determined busing needs, he said.
“Each school district should be able to determine what’s important to (it),” he said.
Further, he said, threats by the Department of Education to reduce routes is a “game” being played to get constituents to agree to tax or fee increases.
“It’s politics,” he explained. “Government cuts the things that people see first so they will agree to the tax increases. It’s all a play.”
Ebert will face Republican Mike Breslin, in the Aug. 11 primary election to represent House District 6, which includes Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Honokohau, Kealakehe, Kalaoa and North Kona to Kaupulehu, in the November general election. The district, which was changed as part of the 2012 reapportionment process, has no incumbent.
While historically there has been a lack of Republicans elected to represent the Big Island in the state House of Representatives, Ebert said he will be successful if elected because he is a “strong Republican” who “will hide nothing behind the scenes.”
If elected, Ebert said his top priority would be to reduce the cost of electricity for consumers. Hit with a $400 Hawaii Electric Light Co. bill shortly after arriving from Texas in 2007, Ebert said something has got to be done because “the bills shouldn’t be that high.”
Reducing fossil fuel reliance will be a big part of cutting the cost of electricity, Ebert said. Despite sitting on a natural resource — geothermal — Hawaii Island spends an estimated $1 billion of $4 billion to $5 billion statewide to purchase fuel to produce energy.
Solar and wind will play a role, but a base energy like geothermal is required.
Geothermal energy production should be 200 to 300 percent higher than current numbers, Ebert said. The technology is already used in other countries and has been studied here for 20 years.
“HELCO is a public utility, and it earns its profit based on what it spends — there is no incentive for HELCO to reduce the price of electricity, or even find a cheaper way to produce electricity, because its profit is based on what it spends, so it will spend as much as it can,” he said. “That’s the only reason.”
He was, however, unsure of how to fund increasing geothermal energy production on Hawaii Island.
“The technology is old, so there’s no need to be studying it for that long,” he said. “There are countries that derive most of their electricity from geothermal.”
As for an increase in taxes or user fees: “I would never vote to increases taxes, and a user fee, that’s a tax, too.”