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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Hawai'i's private schools still popular, census shows

 •  U.S. poverty rises after long decline

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Staff Writer

About one in six Hawai'i students in kindergarten through grade 12 is enrolled in private school — a rate higher than for the nation as a whole, according to statistics released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Although enrollment fluctuated from the 1990 to 2000 census, the ratio of public to private school students in Hawai'i remained constant, at about 84 percent to 16 percent. Nationally, about 11 percent of school children attend private school.

Educators said one reason for the difference is the long history of private education in the Islands. Missionaries who came to Hawai'i more than a century ago founded schools that have drawn from generations of local families, while longstanding institutions such as Kamehameha Schools also have played a major role in education.

Punahou School, founded in 1841, now has a student body of 3,700 in grades Ki12, while 'Iolani School, founded in 1863, has 1,800. Kamehameha Schools, established in 1887 to benefit Native Hawaiian students, has 4,900 students in preschool through grade 12.

"It really goes back to a strong tradition of private schools," said Karen Ginoza, president of the Hawai'i State Teachers Association.

Ginoza said another difference is that many private schools on the Mainland deal with "more difficult children," whereas "it's the opposite here, where the private schools generally enroll only the highly successful students."

The state Department of Education reported 183,520 students enrolled in public school in the 2000-2001 school year, while figures from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism show 32,193 Hawai'i students enrolled in 130 private schools in 1999-2000. More than a third of the private school students attended Catholic schools.

The 2000 census numbers break down enrollment by race. In Ki12, 24 percent of white students attended private school, as did 15 percent of students of Asian descent, 10 percent each of Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino students, and 6 percent of African-American students.

In grades 9 through 12, the percentage of white students attending private school jumped to 34 percent — about one in three. The comparable figure was 16 percent of high school students of Asian descent, 13 percent of Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander students, 11 percent of Hispanic/Latino, and 8 percent of African-American students.

Ginoza noted that an overwhelming majority of Hawai'i students still are enrolled in public school and deserve adequate resources. "These students will become the citizens for the next generation" who will play a central role in the state's future, she said.

Reach Christie Wilson at (808) 244-4880 or cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.