Hawaii's congressional delegation introduced a bill today that would make important changes to the Native Hawaiian Education Act, an existing program that has improved educational opportunities for thousands of Native Hawaiian kids and families. The changes would strengthen and help secure the program's future by increasing accountability, sharing grantees' best practices, and ensuring that Native Hawaiians have access to the opportunities this program provides.
"The Native Hawaiian Education Act has improved educational achievement for thousands of Native Hawaiian students, and the changes that we are proposing to the law today will help sustain it for the long haul," said Senator Mazie K. Hirono. "By increasing the program's transparency, bolstering accountability, and ensuring its effectiveness, we can continue to provide children on every island with culturally-relevant educational programs. I thank Chairman Harkin for including our bill in his larger education legislation introduced in the Senate this week. I will continue to work closely with my delegation colleagues to provide quality education opportunities for our keiki and protect our special commitment to the Native Hawaiian community."
"This legislation would improve academic achievement for Native Hawaiians by providing federal funding for educational programs and Native Hawaiian language programs," said Senator Brian Schatz. "It is imperative that the federal government invest in these programs in order to assist at-risk youth and to preserve the Native Hawaiian language and culture, and this is why I am committed to passage of this bill and future legislation that will provide high-quality, culturally relevant programs and enhance educational opportunities for Native Hawaiians."
"The Native Hawaiian Education Act ensures our Native Hawaiian students have the opportunity to excel in the classroom while honoring their unique culture. These important changes help strengthen the program to increase accountability so it remains viable in future years, while guaranteeing our state's diverse counties all have a voice on the council. Mahalo to the rest of the delegation for their cooperation on this critical legislation. I look forward to continuing our work to preserve Hawaii's host culture," said U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa.
"The reauthorization of the Native Hawaiian Education Act is so important because it provides vital support for Native Hawaiian education and offers increased transparency and accountability. The NHEA opens the program to Native Hawaiian-focused public charter schools, increases communication between Hawai"i stakeholders and the U.S. Department of Education, and provides a great opportunity for community participation. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to pass this legislation," said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
This bill increases the program's transparency by appointing elected officials and well known education providers and consumers on the Native Hawaiian Education Council, and requiring designees to have at least 5 years of experience in Native Hawaiian education. It also requires the council to hold yearly community consultations with stakeholders on each of Hawaii's six major islands and submit a yearly report to the U.S. Department of Education explaining the council's funding recommendations. The bill also aims to strengthen the Council's voice by requiring an annual report from the US Department of Education on the program's funding and results. These changes will highlight the importance and effectiveness of the Native Hawaiian Education Act.
Hawaii's congressional delegation successfully included the bill in a larger education bill introduced in the Senate this week. In keeping with their commitment to the welfare of Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, , Alaska's Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Mark Begich and Representative Don Young are also original cosponsors of the measure.
The bill follows this week's inaugural roundtable hosted by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) and the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) in Washington, DC. CNHA and AFN represent hundreds of Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native organizations, and the joint conference helped reaffirm the states' continuing collaboration on behalf of indigenous peoples.