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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 7, 2003

Fairness issue begins with the princess' will

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

A quick Internet search will turn up information on dozens of scholarships for Hawai'i students of specific ethnic backgrounds.

Most of them were set up as a part of someone's estate after their death. The scholarship applications often include descriptions about what the donor had in mind when the fund was established: to provide educational opportunities to deserving minority students. These mission statements are worded in lofty, ambitious and inspirational language describing how one person wanted to use his or her accumulated wealth to educate kids of a particular profile.

There are scholarships for students of Filipino ancestry. There are scholarships for Tongan students. There is a scholarship for students "primarily of Japanese ancestry and born in Hawai'i." And so on.

On a national level, there are scholarships for just about every ethnic and racial category you could imagine, and probably some you couldn't.

How are these local funds different from the assets willed by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop to benefit the education of Native Hawaiian children?

In two big ways: One, nobody is trying to pull apart these people's wills, and two, the princess had a lot more money.

Could No. 2 be the reason for No. 1?

It seems sometimes that the one thing that drives some non-Hawaiians crazy about Kamehameha Schools is that there is such vast wealth they cannot freely access. They feel this isn't fair. It seems to be lost to some people that the campus on the hill and all the associated educational funds and programs are the product of one person's will.

It was Pauahi's wish to support education for Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian children. This is not a public institution. It is how one woman wanted her assets used after her death.

What really isn't fair is that so few Hawaiian children benefit from the princess' trust.

With the recent flurry of court challenges and the departure of Kamehameha Schools CEO Hamilton McCubbin, discussion of the schools' new strategic plan has faded into the background. Yet many aspects of the plan unveiled by McCubbin in a series of community meetings last year address current criticisms of the trust's mission.

A lofty goal of the plan is to reach all eligible Native Hawaiian children in 15 years. This would be accomplished by outreach, including partnerships with the state Department of Education. In that way, Kamehameha Schools resources will reach non-Hawaiian students as well.

Should non-Hawaiian students be accepted into Kamehameha schools? They already have, and certainly Ke Ali'i Pauahi's will does not spell out exclusion of non-Hawaiians.

But before equal access for non-Hawaiians can even be discussed, better access for Hawaiian children must be accomplished.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.