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Bill to Address Underrepresented, Underserved Native Hawaiians in Education

This legislative session we’re seeing a couple of important Native Hawaiian-focused education measures.

Senate Bill 3071 would appropriate money to “establish and resource” Hookulaiwi: Aha Hoonaauau Oiwi (center for Native Hawaii and indigenous education) within the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Why is it important? The bill, sponsored by Sen. Clayton Hee, lays out a number of reasons:

The legislature also finds that the Native Hawaiian language and culture are absent from the curricula of Hawaii public schools despite the plethora of research indicating that children learn best when they are able to relate new learning to familiar experiences.  This absence prevents Native Hawaiian children from gaining the personal and cultural identity necessary for success in life.  It should not be surprising then that so many Native Hawaiian children find little purpose and meaning in school.

     Finally, the legislature finds that in terms of student achievement, Native Hawaiian children as a group score in the bottom quartile on standardized tests of reading and mathematics, are overrepresented in special education, and have the highest school dropout rate.

Hookulaiwi already exists as a community-based partnership initiative to prepare teachers for Hawaiian Language Immersion Program schools and schools with high Native Hawaiian populations, but this bill would expand it from an initiative into a full-fledged program with three permanent positions. A joint Hawaiian Affairs and Education committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the bill at 2:45 p.m. Monday.

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