Lingle plans science academies
But a top Democrat questions the use of funds for the needy
About $3.6 million in federal funds earmarked for assisting needy families will go toward establishing new science and math academies in up to eight schools, Gov. Linda Lingle said.
Lingle credited Human Services Director Lillian Koller for coming up with the "innovative" way of spending the money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
"It's money that's supposed to be used for family strengthening -- for making certain that we don't allow more people to fall into poverty," Lingle said. "We do that by having activities for young people, especially in neighborhoods and communities that are having economic challenges, overall."
Money will go toward establishing academies within schools to promote science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM disciplines.
Lingle said she believes lawmakers will support the idea, noting that the Legislature this year approved the formation of two STEM academies at schools on Kauai.
"I think they're going to think this is a great idea -- that it's an innovative way of achieving what they agreed is the direction for our state," she said. "I think it should get a lot of support."
House Speaker Calvin Say questioned whether that was the best use of the federal dollars.
"Does that fit into the overall federal program for needy families?" said Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley). "Would resources such as food, shelter and clothing be a bigger priority for TANF funds? Would food stamps and health care be a priority?"
Majority Democrats in the Legislature have not always agreed with the administration's use of TANF funds.
Two years ago, Koller's agency came under criticism after it was learned that some TANF funds were being used for an anti-drug media campaign as a replacement for funding that was cut from state spending on arts programs.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigated the matter and found no wrongdoing.
Federal guidelines for use of TANF funds say the money must go to help poor families; promote self-sufficiency through work, marriage and job training; and prevent unwanted pregnancies while encouraging the formation of two-parent families.
In a memo outlining the use of the TANF funds, Lingle noted that the guidelines encourage states to use the money "flexibly and in innovative ways" to achieve those goals.
She said her administration prefers to use TANF funds for programs that "improve the motivation, performance and self-esteem of youth."
Hawaii receives grant for tech education
Hawaii was one of six states awarded $500,000 grants from the National Governors Association to establish education programs promoting science, technology, engineering and math skills, officials announced yesterday.
"This was a hugely competitive grant," Gov. Linda Lingle said, adding that the emphasis on so-called STEM skills fits with her goal of promoting innovation and high-tech skills throughout Hawaii's economy.
"It's not just the money," she added. "The $500,000, we'll take it any day of the week, but it's that recognition that we're not just on the right track, but we're a leader on the right track."
Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia were the other states to receive grants.
Lingle said the state plans to match the grant money to put a total of $1 million toward STEM programs.