Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Kamehameha offering funds
to public schools

It proposes to spend $50 million to
reach 46,000 students across the state

By Crystal Kua

Kekaha Elementary school principal Billi Smith said he believes 100 percent of the students in West Kauai could attain high school diplomas, along with other academic bonuses if area public schools get the extra financial boost that the Kamehameha Schools is promising.

"If we had the resources come down to the school ... we could have smaller class sizes, empower teachers to attend staff development and to go beyond with reading and writing," said Smith, whose student population consists of 40 percent Hawaiian children including a small percentage from the Hawaiians-only island of Niihau.

Kamehameha Schools yesterday announced an ambitious plan to spend more than $50 million to reach more than 46,000 students in various programs.

Under the plan, Kamehameha Schools would continue to run its private school campuses and preschools across the state, make scholarships available to Hawaiian children to attend other preschools, infuse more money into public schools in communities with a high concentration of Hawaiian children and reach out to more special needs children.

"The trustees are saying we're missing a lot of kids. We've taken the best and the brightest but what about everybody else," said Hamilton McCubbin, Kamehameha Schools' chief executive officer.

About 1,057 students are enrolled in Kamehameha preschools and 3,500 at its kindergarten-through-12th grade private school campuses on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. Another 15,000 students are in career education and community- extension education programs.

"We will definitely continue direct services," said Charlene Hoe, Kamehameha project coordinator. "That by itself is not going to meet the needs. That by itself is not going to meet the target."

The first major component would make scholarships available for 10,000 more students to attend accredited preschools other than those run by Kamehameha. Certain incentives would be provided for these schools to improve their facilities and help with accreditation.

"If we're going to impact our future generations to take us out of poverty, create more opportunities, we're going to have to reach the kids earlier," McCubbin said.

The second major component would be to funnel more money into the public schools, an effort to reach more special needs children.

"We have many kids within the (Department of Education System) that need some support as well and that's where most of the Hawaiians are," McCubbin said. "The question is: How do we reach them?"

Kamehameha plans to create a nonprofit entity that would be driven by the community, with a Kamehameha presence on its board to oversee funding.

The state Department of Education would provide the school facilities, faculty and staff and operating budget and Kamehameha would match the school operating budget dollar for dollar.

"If we can explore a way to get with the community and with the department of education and at the community campuses, we might be able to collectively raise the bar for education delivery," Hoe said.

Because a public school is involved, students of all ethnic backgrounds would be able to attend. Kauai is one of the first places Kamehameha is looking to become involved.

Smith, who also is a parent of Kamehameha student, said extra funding from Kamehameha could also help with alienated youths at the middle school level, many of whom happen to be Hawaiian. "Anything that can help us to provide lifelong learning and give back to their community would be really sweet," Smith said.

Kamehameha plans to fund the projects through various means, including increasing its endowment, funding construction through debt financing, and reallocating funds for current programs, McCubbin said. The school hasn't decided whether it will raise tuition, McCubbin said.

The plan would require approval from the probate court and the Internal Revenue Service, as well as a change in legislation to allow it to function within the public school system. Sen. Norman Sakamoto, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said details on legislation have not been worked out yet, but the concept would be similar to the charter school process.

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