Monday, February 25, 2002

Waianae’s noncompliance
troubles senator

By Crystal Kua

Waianae state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa has somewhat of a personal stake in overseeing fiscal issues concerning state spending in the federal Felix consent decree.

Waianae High School and the schools that feed into it will be one of a handful of complexes that probably will not meet a March 31 compliance deadline and will need more time to correct difficulties.

Hanabusa is scratching her head trying to figure out why.

"I don't believe that they are trying any less or doing any less than anyplace else. There's something else," she said.

Hanabusa and state Rep. Scott Saiki (D, McCully) chair the Joint Senate-House Investigative Committee that will gear up again today to examine the state's compliance efforts.

Most of the committee's work at today's session will be done behind closed doors, with members getting an update from lawyers on the status to enforce subpoenas they served on members of a panel of experts that included Felix court monitor Ivor Groves, who provided technical assistance to the state on compliance issues. The committee has filed several different court actions to enforce the subpoena they issued to obtain testimony during hearings held last year.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra had indicated that he would refer the committee's report to the U.S. Justice Department to determine if allegations of wrongdoing in the report amount to criminal charges.

Groves said that because of the judge's referral, he and others who have been represented by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the subpoena showdown will no longer be able to be represented by the office, and arrangements are being made to get another attorney.

The committee also will get an update on compliance efforts.

"We will be watching the March 31 deadline very closely," Saiki said.

Saiki said that schools have worked hard to reach the compliance goal.

Hanabusa said she also knows that the schools in Waianae have worked hard toward that goal and that it is troubling that they have not reached it yet.

"I watch the kids, and they have one of the finest media programs, and you have great learning, and you have one of the most exciting Hawaiian programs and there is strong community base," she said. "It's hard to understand."

Groves said there are socioeconomic and other factors that are inherent to some of the issues the schools are dealing with in education.

"Waianae has very high (special education) demand, high teacher turnover, and it has very challenging management issues," Groves said.

Hanabusa said if Waianae and other rural areas are still having problems, then she believes there are still systemic problems pertaining to rural areas that need to be fixed.

"Maybe they're looking at it too conventional," she said. "What I hope is that the Department (of Education) comes up with some creative ways to get the services out there. ... Maybe they should get more resources."

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