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Editorials
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Thursday, September 11, 2003




[ OUR OPINION ]


Lawmakers, others
deserve kudos
for impact money


THE ISSUE

Hawaii's schools will gain $3.5 million in federal funds through the efforts of a state legislator, military officials and others.

HATS OFF to state Rep. K. Mark Takai, military officials and national organizations who worked together to claim $3.5 million in federal funds to help cover the cost of educating children of military families in Hawaii. That their efforts may bring as much as $20 million annually in the coming years also is good news for the state.

The extra money was drawn through the federal impact aid law that allocates funds to school districts in which military dependent children live to supplement their education costs.

When a child resides on base, aid funds to schools are increased because the family's property tax liability -- generally how most school systems are financed -- decreases. When a child lives off base, the funding formula calls for a decrease in aid since parents would be paying property taxes. However, more than 2,000 on-base students in Hawaii were being counted as off-base children because their military housing units were being renovated, resulting in a reduction of federal aid funds.

Last November, Takai, the state Department of Education and the military invited representatives of the Military Impacted Schools Association and its umbrella group, the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, to Hawaii. During the visit, Takai learned of federal legislation called Table 9 that allows school systems affected by base housing renovations to claim students temporarily relocated off base as on-base children.

The department apparently was unaware of Table 9 and needed help to compile data necessary to claim the appropriate funds. Takai along with military officials put together the figures so they could be included in the DOE's impact aid application. As a result, the $3.5 million soon will flow into the school system.

With the military poised to renovate more than 10,000 housing units in the state during the next few years, many on-base military families and their children will be displaced. The DOE needs to be able to keep track of them properly in order to apply the Table 9 provision. Takai says he and military officials are working to develop a process by which the department can be assured it gets the appropriate funding annually. About $20 million or more may be at stake.

Takai says the meeting in November was especially fruitful in gaining knowledge about the complexities of impact aid funds. Hawaii also may qualify for funds under special education and other provisions of the program. In addition to Takai's efforts, the DOE should be looking into those areas so that all appropriate entitlements are sought.

State lawmakers are often criticized as do-nothing legislators, but in this case Takai has shown what community leaders can accomplish when they put together partnerships with the right people. As John Deegan, MISA's executive director said, "The effort of Rep. Takai should be commended. Without his initiative, schools in Hawaii would have lost out."

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Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Larry Johnson,
Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke, Colbert
Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,
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Frank Teskey, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com

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