On January 18, 2017, the Hawai‘i State Legislature convened the 29th Biennium Legislative Session. Senate President Kouchi introduced Kevin Johnson, the former Mayor of Sacramento and a former professional basketball player, and announced that “he has been meeting with Johnson and hopes to work with him to address many of the concerns in Hawai‘i that mirror those of the Mayor’s hometown” (as per Damon Tucker).
In addition to this appearance on opening day, Johnson has been making the rounds with legislators, and was most recently spotted last week at the Hawaii Business 20 for the next 20 event.
Johnson is an alleged serial perpetrator of sexual assault, something that has been covered extensively in media, including on HBO’s “Real Sports” news program. Among other allegations, Johnson was said to have used his standing in the community to keep his teenaged victims, many of whom he mentored, from coming forward.
See also: slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/10/12/kevin_johnson_sexual_assault_allegations_sacramento_mayor_faces_questions.html
In his speech, it was clear that Senator Kouchi had invited Johnson because of his work with charter schools, but it seems he must not know the full details of either Johnsons’ involvement with charter schools, or that of Johnson’s wife, Michelle Rhee. As a former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. school system, Rhee has also been the subject of controversy after closing a number of Washington D.C. schools without public hearing, and making unsubstantiated claims that she had improved test scores from the 13th percentile to the 90th. Her eventual approval rating dropped to 43 percent, prior to her resignation. More recently, Rhee has advocated for school vouchers, allowing public funds to be used for private school tuition, at events funded by recently appointed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
While Kouchi’s close association with Johnson as an alleged sex assault perpetrator should, at the very least, raise eyebrows and give legislators pause before working with him, Kouchi’s stated intention to seek guidance from advocates of controversial educational policies may carry serious repercussions that could affect public school children, teachers and taxpayers far into the future.