Private school
bonds in limbo

Officials are waiting for an opinion
by the state attorney general before
moving ahead

State financing of private school construction is on hold because of Tuesday's Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that invalidated an unrelated constitutional amendment.

Hawaii voters approved three constitutional amendments in the 2002 general elections. One changed the residency requirement for state House and Senate candidates. Another authorized the state to help finance private school construction through low-interest loans by issuing special-purpose revenue bonds. The third made it easier for prosecutors to file charges against felony suspects.

The third amendment was challenged in court, and on Tuesday the Supreme Court justices found that it was not properly ratified because voters were not presented the full text of the amendment prior to the election, as required by the state Constitution.

The ruling has also raised a cloud over the other two amendments, even though neither has been challenged in court.

Based on the 2002 election results, state lawmakers approved issuing $42 million last year for projects at five private schools.

State Budget Director Georgina Kawamura said her department had just completed putting together new rules for issuing bonds for private schools but had not yet released the bonds for sale after the court's decision.

"We were just about ready and then this slight setback," she said.

Kawamura said she is awaiting an OK from the state attorney general before proceeding.

The five schools whose financing is in limbo are Chaminade University, Mid-Pacific Institute, St. Patrick's School in Kaimuki, Hanahauoli School in Makiki and Hoala School in Wahiawa.

Five other schools, including Damien Memorial High School and Iolani School, are asking this year's Legislature to authorize $89 million in bonds.

Lawmakers approved $5 million for Hoala School last year. Principal Nancy Barry said the school needs the money to complete construction of the school's campus.

"We had counted on this in our financial plans and strategy," she said.

Hoala's high school students, 46 of them, are in new classrooms on the school's 2.2-acre campus at 311 Lehua St. The school's staff and 79 other students in grades K-8 are at 1067-A California Ave. in space rented from the Wahiawa Hongwanji Mission.

Barry said the school continues to look for other sources of funding, but, "We just can't keep going back to the same funders."

Hoala and many of the other schools seeking state financing are members of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools. Barry said the association is hoping to remove the cloud over the two unchallenged amendments by asking the Supreme Court to separate them from the case involving the amendment for criminal charges.

The other constitutional amendment requires candidates to reside in the state House or Senate district that they seek to represent at the time they file their nomination papers. Previously, candidates were required to reside in the district by the general election. The Office of Elections continues to apply the new residency requirement.


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