East Hawaii News

Native Hawaiian Education Provisions Pass Senate

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The United States Senate passed provisions to improve and expand Native Hawaiian and Native language education as part of a compromise measure to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Wednesday’s vote on the Every Student Succeeds Act passed by the count of 85-12. It included several provisions introduced by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz.

“Native language have the power to strengthen the connection between students, their communities, and their cultures,” said Senator Schatz. “In Hawai‘i, Native Hawaiian immersion schools and culturally sensitive programs are improving student achievement and lifting native communities. My provisions will give us the tools we need to improve and expand Native Hawaiian programs and give more children the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Some of Senator Schatz’s major provisions to improve Native Hawaiian education include the re-authorization of the Native Hawaiian education program, including the expansion of eligibility to charter schools and more than $160 million over the next five years; a new grant initiative to establish or expand Native language immersion programs; and an amendment authorizing a study of Native American language immersion schools that would provide critical data and help determining best practices for educational native students thorough medium of Native American languages including Native Hawaiian.


Also included in the ESSA is Federal Impact Aid funding for Hawai’i’s public schools that assist “federally-connected” children, reversing an earlier version of the bill that proposed $30 million in cuts to the state. Also passed as part of the act was a competitive grant program to help school districts, educational agencies, and community groups serve the schools around them and a state-based accountability system that would eliminate the No Child Left Behind focus on test scores.

According to Sen. Mazie Hirono, 18 Hawai’i preschools will receive its share of $250 million dollars through the year 2020 through funding from the Preschool Development Grant Fund.

“Our schools should be places where students’ curiosity about the world can grow into a lifelong passion for learning,” said Senator Hirono. “The Every Student Succeeds Act makes the one size fits all mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act a thing of the past, and Hawai’i students will benefit from this legislation that supports early education, services to military-connected children, improvements to the Native Hawaiian Education Act, and many other commonsense reforms.


“However, I am disappointed that a provision I offered to provide more accurate data on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) students was not included in the final legislation. I appreciate the work that Senator Patty Murray and Representative Bobby Scott did to make progress to provide federal support for states who take initiative to help AANHPI students succeed, but there is still work that needs to be done to ensure that educators have insight on how to help all students.”

The bill passed the House with majority support and is now on its way to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.

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