Office of Hawaiian Affairs Awards $1.5 Million for Charter Schools

The Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) approved $1.5 million in emergency funding to seventeen Hawaiian-focused public charter schools for the 2013-2014 school year to address the budgetary shortfalls the schools have continued to face over the past five years.

The Nā Lei Na‘auao – Native Hawaiian Charter School Alliance (NLN) is truly grateful for OHA’s continued commitment to support these unique values-based models of education, that are at once ancient and modern. The schools’ successes validate NLN’s capacity to design and control the process of education dedicated to perpetuating Hawai‘i’s language, culture and traditions. The process helps the native learning communities honor the past, address the present and serve the future.

Haunani Seward, the Director of Ke Kula Ni’ihau ‘o Kekaha on Kaua’i explains, “Our culture is defined by our values.  When we learn our genealogy, we honor our ancestors.  When we recognize a place as piko, we aloha ʻāina.  Accepting and recognizing our leadership roles is kuleana and we mālama these relationships.  These beliefs are the kaula or rope that binds us together.  NLN captures this kaula, creating relevant curricula for today’s haumāna.  Whether through language, reforestation, hula drama, or sailing canoes, the outcome is ultimately the same – passing on these important cultural values.”

An innovative, culturally-driven educational approach, known as EA-Education with Aloha presents unprecedented potential to address the distinctive needs of Hawai’i’s largest, most undereducated major ethnic population.  The success of EA-Education with Aloha is also an indicator that Hawaiians can design, implement and evaluate quality models of education and that public school children in Hawai’i, particularly native Hawaiian students, should be given an option to choose Hawaiian-focused ways of education.  Furthermore through public, private partnerships and sharing of resources, we can develop a parallel system of education that is culturally-driven, family-oriented and community-based for all Hawai’i nei.

Research have confirmed that Hawaiians in charter schools perform better on standardized reading and math tests and are significantly less chronically absent than Hawaiians in standard public schools. NLN schools have high levels of school engagement and positive achievements due to culturally-grounded, strength-based approaches, which are sensitive to student and family needs.

Co-Administrator Allyson Tamura of Kanu o ka ‘Äina New Century Public Charter School (KANU), located in Waimea on the island of Hawai’i, is extremely appreciative for OHA’s continued support of Hawaiian-focused public charter schools.  “OHA’s support allows KANU to remain steadfast to our school’s vision and mission, positively impacting our students, staff, their families and our community.  Mahalo nui loa!”

OHA’s generous funding will support over 4,000 students at seventeen Hawaiian-focused public charter schools with enrollments that are up to 90-percent Hawaiian. These schools are located on the islands of Kauai, O‘ahu, Moloka‘i and Hawai’i Island.

OHA is a unique, independent state agency established through the Hawai‘i State Constitution and statutes to advocate for the betterment of conditions of all Native Hawaiians with a Board of Trustees elected by the voters of Hawai‘i. OHA is guided by a vision and mission to ensure the perpetuation of the culture, to protect the entitlements of Native Hawaiians, and to build a strong and healthy Hawaiian people and nation.

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