Last month, I introduced to you our work with the Fiscal Sustainability Plan. I would like to inform you that we are well underway, making great strides to achieve our goals of improving our policies. Our improved policies will be the solid foundation for which the OHA’s financial future will be secured. I know the beneficiaries can be proud of the hard work of our Trustees, their staff, and OHA administration.
This month I wanted to address the events surrounding the $3 million grant to be disbursed to the seventeen Hawaiian-Focused Public Charter Schools throughout Hawai‘i. For many years OHA has been committed to supporting our charter schools. Undoubtedly, they provide thousands of children in Hawai‘i the need for Hawaiian cultural and ‘āina based education. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the early pioneers of these programs and to our kūpuna for the inspiration to perpetuate their sciences, traditions, and philosophies. As a part of our current mission, OHA understands that education is paramount to the betterment of our lāhui.
The Hawai‘i State Legislature earmarked a total of $1.23 million from the general fund to be matched by OHA and disbursed for the purpose of improving the education of native Hawaiians. OHA has made good on that promise by budgeting the following programs:
Community Grants Program
- 16-04: Education – Total $1 million
- Higher Education Scholarships – Total $1 million
Level II Grants
- Hawaiian-Focused Public Charter Schools (HFPCS) – Total $3 million
This is a total of $5 million for Hawaiian educational opportunities, which greatly exceeds the match requirement from the State. OHA also has other funds that could potentially serve the educational needs of our lahui.
Originally, OHA decided it would be best to have the $3 million disbursed to the schools by way of a 3rd party administrator. This administrator would be paid a portion of the $3 million to support staff to monitor the contracts, the uses of the funds, and reporting. A competitive grants solicitation went out to the public in search for an administrator. For the first time there were two applicants: Kanu o ka ‘Āina Learning ‘Ohana (KALO) and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA). Our grants department’s process to determine who should be awarded the position of administrator was done fairly and objectively. With a higher score on their application assessment, CNHA would be recommended to the Board of Trustees (BOT) for final approval and recommendation. Simply put, due to major push back by hundreds of HFPCS stakeholders, the BOT saw that there was a conflict within our lāhui. This puts the BOT in a difficult situation. It was made clear the beneficiaries did not want the BOT to approve the award to CNHA, and it is our job to listen to their concerns. As the BOT, we must adhere to the will of the lāhui. As a solution, the BOT decided to bring the administration of this grant in-house at OHA. It was clear that OHA should shoulder the kuleana. As a result, 100% of the $3 million will go to the charter schools.
Despite the turmoil of last month, it is imperative that we all keep in mind that the funds will help nurture the minds of our haumāna and future of our lāhui.