Students of Halau Ku Mana charter school got a real-life lesson in politics as school advocates got what the wanted from OHA, blocking a contract for the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to manage $3 million for Hawaiian charter schools.
OHA trustees decided to remove the Council as what they dubbed "the middle man."
"I think we were trying to advocate for our schools and at the end of the day it's about our students," said Keoni Bunag, principal at Halau Ku Mana charter school.
The resource management committee of OHA's board decided to have $3 million go directly to 17 Hawaiian-focused charter schools. This, after the issue of using the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to distribute those funds became a big controversy.
"I believe we looked at the grant total and that it would be beneficial for the charter schools to get all the money allow us to administer the funds," said Hulu Lindsey, OHA trustee and chair of the resource management committee.
The Council for Native Advancement would have received $136,000 per year for the two-year contract to manage the school grants.
"I am bewildered because I can guarantee personally as the chairman of CNHA there will be no problem in the handling and management of your grant," said Alvin Parker, chairman for the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.
"The education of our keiki is too important, not your keiki, my keiki, is too important to risk on an entity with political rather than education priorities," said Healani Sonoda-Pale, parent at Halau Ku Mana.
The vote was unanimous, but some trustees were sorry for the controversy, saying the council won the contract and did nothing wrong.
"I do want to issue an apology to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement whom I believe acted in good faith in this entire process," said Kelii Akina, OHA trustee.
"I apologize to the charter schools and CNHA that this thing occurred," said Rowena Akana, OHA trustee.
The full OHA board is expected to ratify the committee's decision next week.