Monday, August 30, 1999

Welfare benefit cutoff
is a dose of reality

Bullet The issue: The state is cutting off welfare benefits to 1,055 households this week for failure to comply with new requirements.

Bullet Our view: The requirements are aimed at prodding welfare recipients to help themselves achieve economic independence.

THE harsh reality that compliance with the new requirements is necessary in order to continue to receive benefits will be evident to 1,055 Hawaii households this week. There will be no welfare check in the mail.

These are households in which the adults did not meet a July 31 deadline to find work or begin job training after two years on public assistance.

Under a new state policy, failure to meet minimum job requirements results in a loss of benefits -- not just for individuals but for entire families.

Able-bodied welfare recipients are required to look for work, get a job, enroll in job training or do at least four hours of volunteer work a month.

These are not unreasonable requirements. Welfare recipients were given ample notification of the change. The policy is aimed at prodding people to get off welfare by helping themselves.

The cutoff this week won't be the last. An additional 1,100 families could lose their benefits next month, and the numbers could increase every month. The average family of three receives $497 from the state. Food stamps and other welfare programs are not affected.

It's estimated that 3,000 men, women and children will be affected by the cutoff, but they will be able to have their benefits restored if they meet the requirements.

The state Department of Human Services should make every effort to help the affected people to meet the new requirements. But in the end it is up to the beneficiaries to take action to achieve a measure of economic independence.

Stender’s proposals

Bullet The issue: Former Bishop Estate trustee Oswald Stender proposes that Kamehameha Schools introduce vouchers and privatization.

Bullet Our view: Vouchers make sense but privatization is questionable.

OSWALD Stender has resigned as a trustee of the Bishop Estate, but he is still concerned that the estate fulfill its mission of educating Hawaiian children. In a talk to the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, Stender proposed that the Kamehameha Schools expand their educational reach by introducing a voucher system for Hawaiian students and by privatizing public schools with heavy Hawaiian enrollments.

The purpose of the vouchers would be to enable Hawaiian students to attend other private schools because the capacity of the Kamehameha Schools is limited. Privatization, Stender notes, would enable the Kamehameha Schools to educate Hawaiian children at much lower cost than building its own schools.

Stender was a courageous dissident on the old board of trustees. His campaign against mismanagement and improprieties by the board led to the ouster of the other four members. He has been an advocate of change in the policies of the Kamehameha Schools -- particularly to reach more Hawaiian children -- and now the outlook for change is brighter.

The voucher concept seems sensible. Kamehameha cannot accept all qualified students, and vouchers would give Hawaiian students of limited means other alternatives.

The old board abolished the Kamehameha Schools' community and public school outreach programs several years ago, but the interim trustees have restored some of them. These programs offer ways to help Hawaiian children who are not enrolled in Kamehameha. The more effective ones should be restored and expanded.

Privatization of public schools with heavy Hawaiian enrollments and their administration by Kamehameha would be a drastic step of questionable advisibility. It could compromise Kamehameha's academic standards, which would be a serious drawback. And what about the non-Hawaiian students at those schools?

Better to strengthen cooperation with the Department of Education in supporting programs for Hawaiians in the public schools, while continuing with the establishment and operation of Kamehameha branch schools on the neighbor islands.

Bishop Estate Archive

War crimes arrest

Bullet The issue: Gen. Momir Talic, commander of Bosnian Serb forces, was arrested on an indictment for war crimes.

Bullet Our view: The arrest is a warning to Yugoslav leaders that they cannot evade justice.

THE arrest of the Bosnian Serb army's top commander is a major step in the prosecution of war crimes in the former Yugoslav federation. Gen. Momir Talic was secretly indicted last March by the special prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal. He was arrested last Wednesday while visiting Austria to attend a conference, and flown to The Hague, the home of the tribunal.

Talic is the highest ranking soldier arrested for alleged involvement in "ethnic cleansing" and other crimes in Bosnia. He is accused of being a member of a staff set up in 1992 to plan and carry out mass purges of 100,000 Muslims, Croats and other non-Serbs in northwestern Bosnia.

The Yugoslav Foreign Ministry demanded Talic's immediate release and accused Austria of being anti-Serb. The denunciation was hardly surprising since President Slobodan Milosevic has also been indicted by U.N. prosecutors.

The arrest sent a message to the leadership in Belgrade that no one can evade justice. Milosevic, who is facing mounting calls for his ouster, must be wondering when he too will have to answer for his crimes.

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