Agency falls shortBy Pat Omandam
of funds needed for
The priority for the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has been to build homesteads, but it doesn't have enough money to develop lots for the 18,100 people on the waiting list, says the agency's new director.
"There are three times the number of people on the waiting list as (ones) settled," said interim Hawaiian Homes Chairman Raynard C. Soon.
Soon told the Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday that at the end of 1998 there were 3,000 Hawaiian homestead lots under construction across the state worth about $125 million in construction. To date, the department has awarded 6,550 homestead leases.
Still, Soon said, the agency is only "scratching the surface" of its obligation to provide homesteads under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, which set aside 203,500 acres of public lands for the benefit of native Hawaiians with at least 50 percent Hawaiian blood.
One problem is that it costs an average of $50,000 each to develop a homestead lot. At this rate, it would take the department a billion dollars just to build all the lots needed, he said.
Sen. Andrew Levin (D, Volcano) told Soon and Deputy Director Jobie M.K.M. Yamaguchi they need to be creative in raising revenue to build more lots. As it stands, people who sign up today on the waiting list have no hope of getting a homestead in their lifetime, he said.
"We just have to keep looking," Levin said. "Something more needs to be done. Please keep searching."
Levin did praise a Hawaiian Homes project in Kahikinui, Maui, where Hawaiians in the community convinced the department to award 75 undeveloped homesteads that have roads but no infrastructure, such as sewers or water.
Soon said these lots -- located Upcountry along Haleakala -- are too far from existing infrastructure to be connected. While this project looks to be a success, the department wants to see if this works before awarding more.
Soon said the department's second priority is to increase its income, with the goal of leveraging existing and future resources for development of homesteads.
Although the department's general fund budget has dropped from $3 million in 1990 to $1.4 million this year -- a 54 percent cut -- it is only asking for a $100,000 increase, specifically to maintain more than 900 acres of federal lands that are expected to be transferred to the department at the beginning of fiscal year 2000, Soon said.
Overall, the department's operating costs are $7.12 million, of which $1.4 million are general funds and the rest special funds.
Hawaiian kids educationBy Crystal Kua
to be discussed
Finding out what works and what doesn't in the education of native Hawaiian children will be on the minds of participants in a conference that starts tomorrow.
The conference begins a nine-month collection of information for a congressional report on how well U.S. funded programs have improved the welfare of native Hawaiian children, a group most at-risk for educational failure.
"We kind of know where (native Hawaiian children) are but we don't know the effectiveness of the programs," said Kalani Akana, chairman of the Native Hawaiian Education Oahu Island Council.
The 1994 federal Native Hawaiian Education act cites indicators for Native Hawaiian students:
high rates of teen-age births;
begin school lagging behind other students in readiness;
low standardized test scores;
more likely to be kept back a grade and be excessively absent in secondary school;
over represented in special education programs and underrepresented in gifted-and-talented programs and college.
The act also appropriated millions of dollars to programs aimed at improving native Hawaiian education in several areas including family-based education centers, higher education, gifted-and-talented programs, special education, curriculum development, teacher training and recruitment and community-based learning centers.
Hawaiian organizations and agencies that have received federal money include the Kamehameha Schools, the University of Hawaii-Hilo, Alu Like and the state Department of Education.
The act also created the Native Hawaiian Education Council and island councils like the one that Akana chairs. Akana said that five years after the act, the general status of native Hawaiian education has remained about the same, but it's not known what strides, if any, have come about as a result of the money going to the programs.
"If you just took a cursory glance at all the statistics, we're not going to see a big change, but just looking at the numbers doesn't mean there hasn't been significant change," said Akana, who is also vice principal at Nanakuli High.
The conference, open to the public, begins Friday night at the Kamehameha Schools with most presentations on Saturday. For information, call Akana at 456-1747.