OHA considers changing contract to award charter school funds, unsettling many

Controversy over OHA contract to manage charter school funding
Updated: Sep. 21, 2017 at 8:11 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every year, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs gives $1.5 million to Hawaiian charter schools. Halau Ku Mana, one of 17 Hawaiian focused charters gets about $50,000-$60,000 of the OHA money.

Recently, OHA awarded the contract to administer the funds to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement instead of another group called KALO. An internal memo shows the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement received a score of 81.3 while Kanu O Ka Aina Learning Ohana (KALO) got 75.

The change was met with opposition from charter school supporters at a recent OHA board meeting.

"I humbly request that you do not give the charter school funding to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement which is a political organization rather than an educational non-profit," said Healani Sonoda-Pale, a parent at Halau Ku Mana.

Some are concerned over how the funds will be used.

"I'm worried that after the first year that those resources may decrease. I'm worried that CHNA will leverage the funds for purposes that aren't education related," said Keoni Bunag, principal at Halau Ku Mana.

The Council favors federal recognition while many at Halau Ku Mana oppose it.

"I think at the core of the mistrust is the opposition to our position on federal recognition," said Michelle Kauhane, President and CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

The Council is known for bringing federal dollars to local community projects.

Kauhane vows to bring more federal dollars to help bring parity to charter schools. She says what schools get from OHA won't change.

"The allocation for each of the schools that they received last year would be identical," said Kauhane.

OHA's CEO Kamanaopono Crabbe confirms that and in a statement said "experience working with Hawaiian-focused charter schools was one of the 13 criteria used to evaluate the grant application."

The new contract hasn't be finalized yet and the OHA board will take up this issue on its September 27 agenda.

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