Hawaii law requires that private trade, vocational, and technical schools, including massage therapy schools, must be licensed by the state the department of education. The department of education has had this responsibility since 1939, when the focus of regulation was on the quality of education and instruction at schools providing post-secondary training below the college level. In 1998, Hawaii law was amended to declare that the purpose of regulating private trade, vocational, and technical schools included protecting consumers from false, deceptive, misleading, and unfair practices. According to the state legislature’s findings, this new declaration of purpose brought into question the appropriateness of the program's administrative placement within the department of education.
In 2015, the department of commerce and consumer affairs and department of education convened a working group to evaluate and review the current licensing program for private trade, vocational, and technical schools. The working group collaborated to gather information and develop findings and recommendations. The working group jointly recommended that the licensure program be narrowed in scope, but was unable to come to any other joint recommendations.
The Hawaii legislature has determined, however, that the department of education is no longer the appropriate location for this licensing program. According to the legislative statement, the department of education's primary mission is educating students in grades kindergarten through twelve, and lacks experience providing post-secondary education and regulating post-secondary institutions. The legislature has further found that the department of education does not have the capacity or expertise in the specialized curricula of the various private trade, vocational, and technical schools currently under its licensing jurisdiction to effectively administer the requirements of the Hawaii statutes.
The legislature has additionally found that the department of commerce and consumer affairs has established licensing and regulation processes, consistent with its mission of consumer protection, and several trade and vocational schools now receive state licensure for business operations through the department of commerce and consumer affairs. Consequently, the legislature has determined that the regulation and licensing of private trade, vocational, and technical schools at the post-secondary level belongs more appropriately within the department of commerce and consumer affairs.
As a result, a new bill, HB 2454, has been introduced in the state legislature which proposes to transfer the licensing and regulation of private trade, vocational, and technical schools from the department of education to the department of commerce and consumer affairs. The bill does not propose any substantive changes to the massage law or to the laws regulating schools. The bill is being heard today at 5:00 pm in Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee. We will keep you apprised of the bill’s status.