`Ano`ai kakou… Since 2005, the OHA has been a supporter of the charter school movement, and has collaborated in partnership with the Kamehameha Schools’ Hoꞌolako Like program, ꞌAha Pūnana Leo, Hoꞌokākoꞌo Corporation and other non-profit organizations supporting 15+ Hawaiian-focused charter schools statewide, where Native Hawaiians make up a high portion of the student population.
Most of Hawai’i’s start-up and conversion public charter schools are Hawaiian-focused charter schools and more than 3,000 Native Hawaiian children are enrolled in these schools. These schools lack sufficient funds for facilities and infrastructure, capital improvements and repair and maintenance costs. Difficulties in securing adequate long-term and affordable facilities that are academically appropriate are resulting in a financial crisis for some Hawaiian-focused charters. This threatens the long-term viability of Hawai’i’s public charter school system and the well-being of our Hawaiian children and families.
In spite of the challenges and severe under-funding, Hawaiian-focused charter schools have demonstrated their effectiveness in serving our Hawaiian children, who are more engaged and attain greater gains in the educational process as compared to their peers in conventional public schools. Our children are succeeding in the Hawaiian-focused charter schools because they are grounded in Hawaiian language, culture and values. The well-being of our Hawaiian families and communities are also enhanced by the positive gains made in our Hawaiian-focused charter schools.
The Trustees, the Administration and the staff of OHA are committed to fulfill its education mission to facilitate culturally sound educational opportunities for Native Hawaiians by promoting academic success and life-long learning. The Trustees have authorized and allocated millions of dollars over the years leveraging other potential resources to fund Hawaiian-focused public charter schools. The State is the largest stakeholder and is charged with the greatest responsibility or “kuleana” to make this possible.
Section 5(f) of the 1959 Hawaii Admission Act established that the State holds lands as a public trust be used for: (1) The support of public schools and other public institutions; (2) For the betterment of conditions of native Hawaiians; (3) The development of farm and home ownership; (4) Public improvements; and (5) The establishment of lands for public use.
Hawaiian-focused public charter schools are getting shortchanged by the State.
Hawaiian-focused public charter schools should be getting a much greater share of the ceded land revenues than they do now. They should be drawing from a pool of 40% of the ceded land revenues (support of public schools at 20% and public use of lands at 20%). The State’s share of the ceded land revenues is 80% (minus the 20% for the betterment of native Hawaiians that goes to OHA) and yet they give nothing (0%) to the Charter Schools for infrastructure. This causes a huge disparity between Charter Schools and the Department of Education. Paying for their facilities is a huge burden for charter schools and the State needs to start paying up. Things are so bad that many charter schools would be in dire straits if it weren’t for OHA’s yearly $1.5 million in grants.
It is not enough to make possible the opportunity for our children to attend charter schools. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the learning environments we create for our children, and indeed for all children, must be reflective of the promising future that we envision for them and for our society. I urge all of my readers to support the ongoing success of Hawaiian-focused charter schools. Write and email your OHA Trustee, State Representative, and State Senator to do something about this disparity. Aloha Ke Akua.