Towards Inclusive Funding Priority-Setting for Native Hawaiian Education

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Nothing about us, without us,” is a powerful phrase shared by Sen. Brian Schatz at his Native Hawaiian education listening session earlier this year. It reflects the perspective that federal funding should be led by those who will be most impacted: the community. In education, priority-setting for funding can be dominated by funders and government entities with little or no community seats at the decision-making table.

We need more seats, or we need to build a better, more inclusive table.

One way the Native Hawaiian Education Council (NHEC) has been pushing this seat-at-the-table issue is through our annual reports. At the end of each calendar year, NHEC submits an annual report to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOEd) that funds the Native Hawaiian Education program.

This is not a typical report. This is a voice for the table.

While our annual report does highlight our major accomplishments in the past year and helps inspire a shared vision for our work in education, our main statutory responsibility is to provide priority recommendations to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education as outlined in the Native Hawaiian Education Act, Sec. 6204(d)(6).

Our priority recommendations for funding are developed in engagement with you, our community.

NHEC’s community consultation process meets communities where they are at to listen, learn, and lean in to understand how students, families, and teachers are being impacted. What types of programs are rising to the needs of the community? What areas could use more support and resources? What are some of the challenges and concerns that require our immediate attention? What issues should be added to our radar for monitoring?

Like a woven ʻieʻie basket, the collective voice of the community is gathered and carried forward in our priority recommendations.

This year, we partnered with ʻAʻaliʻi Alliance to engage 118 community members across the paeʻāina.

Our 2021 annual report is in its final stage of completion, but highlights to share include priority funding recommendations for culture-based and ʻāina-based programs, as well as mental health and well-being programming and resources. The final report will be provided to the U.S. Department of Education before December 31. Digital versions of our report will also be made available to the community on our website by Spring 2022.

You can watch our 2021 wrap-up of our community consultation process and findings on our website or check out our previous annual reports at nhec.org.