East Hawaii News

Bill Proposed to Improve Native Hawaiian Education Act

February 12, 2015, 9:30 AM HST
* Updated February 12, 9:31 AM
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A bipartisan bill introduced Wednesday by the Hawai’i Congressional Delegation will extend and improve the Native Hawaiian Education Act. The act has opened up educational opportunities for thousands of Native Hawaiian children and families.

The Senate version of the Native Hawaiian Reauthorization Act of 2015 was introduced by Senators Mazie K. Hirono, Brian Schatz, and Lisa Murkowski. Representatives Tulsi Gabbard, Mark Takai, and Don Young were the original sponsors of the House bill.

“Thousands of Native Hawaiian students have benefited from the Native Hawaiian Education Act and over the past several years I have had the opportunity to hear many of their inspiring stories firsthand,” Senator Hirono said Wednesday. “Our bill will increase the program’s accountability and transparency, and guarantee that future generation of Native Hawaiians will continue to receive a culturally relevant education. I will continue to work closely with my Hawai’i and Alaska delegation colleagues to invest in quality education opportunities for our keiki and protect our special commitment to the Native Hawaiian community.

Through the act, grants are provided for Native Hawaiian educational programs throughout the state, in addition to the creation of the Native Hawaiian Education Council that provides recommendation to the United States Department of Education about the needs of, and priorities for, Native Hawaiian students.

United States Senator Brian Schatz. Courtesy photo.

United States Senator Brian Schatz. U.S. Senate photo.

According to Senator Schatz, “For decades, the Native Hawaiian Education Act has provided the critical resources necessary to confront the unique educational needs of our Native Hawaiian community. Our bill would make key improvements that would expand grant opportunities and make the Native Hawaiian Education Council more accountable to the communities it serves.”

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“The Native Hawaiian Education Act empowers our native communities that have largely been underserved, through education, and preserves the rich and unique culture, language, and values our native people,” said Congresswoman Gabbard. “For the last 27 years, the NHEA has served as a critical and innovative program that enables our communities to thrive. Parents and educators from across the islands count on the expanded educational opportunity this legislation provides for their children, and it is vital that we come together to empower these young students to succeed.”

Represebtative Tulsi Gabbard. Courtesy photo.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard. U.S. House of Representatives photo.

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Education opportunities brought about by these grants range from the Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool to preparing Native Hawaiian students for pursuit of degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math.

“The improvements being introduced to the Native Hawaiian Education Act will help to better a program that has assisted generations of Native Hawaiian students. The changes will allow for increased access to grants and greater clarity for the evolving educational needs of the Native Hawaiian population,” said Congressman Takai.

Mark Takai.

Mark Takai. U.S. House of Representatives photo.

Congressman Takai continued, “I am happy to see the bipartisan show of support for this important bill, I look forward to continuing the improvements we started and preserving the special relationship we have with the Native Hawaiian community.”

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The proposed Native Hawaiian Education Reauthorization Act would allow these vital grant programs to extend and increase the program’s transparency through the designation of stakeholders, like elected officials and University of Hawai’i officials who have experience in Native Hawaiian education.

In the name of transparency, the Council will be required to hold community consultations on all the major islands on a yearly basis and submit an annual report to the U.S. Department of Education with explanation of funding recommendations.

The bill also intends to strengthen the Council’s voice by requiring an annual report from the U.S. Department of Education on the program’s funding and results. It also clarifies that Native Hawaiian charter schools are eligible to apply for grants directly.

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