Thursday, January 17, 2002

Charter schools push
for own district

They will also propose legislation
to become a chartering agency

By Crystal Kua

Charter schools that use the native Hawaiian culture as their educational foundation want their own school district.

Called Pono, which translates into "goodness" and "righteousness," the new campaign is being sponsored in part by Na Lei Naauao, the Native Hawaiian Charter School Alliance, which is made up of 12 charter schools on three different islands, and Kanu O Ka Aina Learning Ohana.

Organizers say the mission of the campaign is to inspire all Hawaii's residents to think, live, promote and expect pono and to make viable choices in education and opportunities for native Hawaiians.

The current charter school system has not done enough to reach those goals, said Ku Kahakalau, director of Kanu O Ka Aina Public Charter School and one of the organizers.

"This charter school thing under the (Department of Education), it's just not working," Kahakalau said.

The group will propose legislation that could also allow the alliance of charter schools to become its own chartering agency.

These charter schools work closely on issues that include teacher certification, and they also share in millions of dollars of federal funding.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are exempt from many state laws and regulations in exchange for their promise through a charter or contract to be accountable for student learning. The state Board of Education is currently the only agency in the state that can approve charters for schools.

Besides introducing the legislation, the Pono campaign will also:

>> Solicit support from Hawaiian organizations to establish Cultural Learning Centers in Hawaiian communities to perpetuate Hawaiian language, culture, values and traditions.

>> Raise awareness and support current efforts by Hawaiian communities to implement quality models of education in Hawaii's poverty-stricken areas.

>> Initiate joint projects involving Hawaiian communities, organizations, families and individuals.

Organizers say the educators involved in the project believe that when Hawaiian values, culture and language are incorporated into the teaching process, education has relevance and meaning for Hawaiian children because the approach differs from the Western system of education.

E-mail to City Desk

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