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Hirono Votes to Protect Equal Opportunity in Schools


Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) today voted in the House Education and the Workforce Committee against H.R. 2445, the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act, that makes dangerous changes in federal education policy, dismantling efforts to create equal opportunity in education at the expense of low-income and other disadvantaged students.

"We in Hawaii have fought to provide a good education for our keiki. People still remember the discriminatory sting of English Standard schools. "Separate' is never equal. This bill would take us backwards," said Congresswoman Hirono, member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

This short-sighted legislation would allow the siphoning away of monies that support the education of disadvantaged students. This includes monies that help low-income students and funds for English Language Learners, migrant, neglected, Native American and Alaskan Native students. School districts would be able to move that targeted funding and use it for almost anything allowed under the Elementary and Secondary School Act.

For example, school districts could choose to take away money allocated to their district to help English Language Learners and direct that money to another school for activities that have nothing to do with core academics.

For more than 45 years, the federal government has recognized the inadequate education opportunities for poor and minority children. In 1965 President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to provide essential supports to schools based on their number of disadvantaged children.

"Education is the great equalizer," said Congresswoman Hirono. "The future of so many keiki will be decided based on this bill -- will they have opportunity or will they fall through the cracks?"

Hawaii's schools educate almost 18,000 English Language Learners who speak many languages at home, including Tagalog, Marshallese, Ilokano, Chuukese, Samoan, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Chamorro. This bill would allow districts around the country to spend monies -- targeted to help these students learn English -- on any student.

"Like a lot of us, I came to this country not reading or speaking English. Providing English Language Learning classes is incredibly important to enabling immigrant kids to learn and succeed in school," said Congresswoman Hirono.

Hawaii's schools also educate more than 125,000 children in poverty. Title I-A funding, which two-thirds of Hawaii's schools receive, helps provide support to low-income students. This bill would allow districts around the country to spend Title I-A formula funds on any student.

"Families across Hawaii want real reform that strengthens our schools and gives our children the opportunity to follow their dreams," said Congresswoman Hirono. "This bill endangers that future and I will continue to fight it every step of the way."

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