Thursday, November 15, 2001

Charter school faults
state for troubles

The state is trying to close
Waters of Life on the Big Island

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> The state is violating the law in trying to close Waters of Life charter school immediately instead of putting it on probation, school Principal Truitt White says.

The state cites the school's financial problems, although the state controls the school's money and created the problems, White told reporters yesterday after a Circuit Court hearing.

Judge Riki May Amano did not get to the money issue during the hearing, instead ruling in the school's favor on another point, that the state cannot use county zoning laws to close the school.

The state wants to close the school on several grounds, including two major points: a $170,000 deficit and an alleged zoning violation because the school is on a hotel-zoned property.

A hearing on the financial issue will be held Wednesday.

Deputy Attorney General Steven Chang argued yesterday that the state has the power to enforce county laws.

Amano rejected that, saying state power does not apply to noncriminal county matters such as zoning.

Honolulu attorney Thomas Tsuchiyama, appointed to defend the school by the Attorney General's Office, which is trying to close the school, agreed with the judge that the state can enforce laws covering use of state funds.

White said outside the courtroom that Tsuchiyama conceded too much, failing to argue to the judge that the charter school law requires a one-year probation for money problems.

Tsuchiyama said he would raise that argument at the next hearing.

Charter school officials have complained about funding cuts from the state.

The state controls Waters of Life's money and cut its funds.

"We couldn't stop them because we have no control," White said. "It seems as if the process is set up to fail."

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