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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Two Native Hawaiian programs face ax

By Gordon Y.K. Pang and Dennis Camire
Advertiser Staff Writers

Two programs aimed at helping educate Native Hawaiians have been targeted for elimination in President Bush's $3.1 trillion budget proposal for next year.

The budget proposal was released yesterday, as officials from the U.S. Department of Education are in Honolulu this week seeking prospective grantees for one of the two programs - the Native Hawaiian Education Act.

The Native Hawaiian Education Act received $33.3 million this year for a variety of different programs, recruitment and training of teachers and the renovation of schools - both public and Hawaiian charter schools - with a high percentage of Native Hawaiian students.

More than $9.5 million is available through a competitive grant process, according to Colin Kippen, executive director of the nonprofit Native Hawaiian Education Council.

Bush's budget also proposes cutting the Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian Higher Education Program, under which Hawai'i received $6 million this year to provide Native Hawaiians with secondary and vocational training.

The state Department of Education is assessing the impact of the proposed cuts, said DOE spokeswoman Sandra Goya.

The programs are among the 151 that Bush wants eliminated or cut back to save more than $18 billion in his budget plan.

Kippen noted that Bush has attempted to dismantle the programs several times in recent years but Congress restored the funding for the Native Hawaiian education after they were cut by the administration.

"And the reality is," he said, "it is the work of our (Hawai'i congressional) delegation that enables those programs to survive."

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai'i, said his staff is going over the budget to ensure other Native Hawaiian programs aren't being cut.

"It is not surprising that the president continues to ignore the value of Native Hawaiian programs. Last year, he 'zeroed out' important educational, healthcare, and job-training initiatives for Native Hawaiians, who, while they are the state's 'first citizens,' lag in every socioeconomic measurement of Hawai'i's population," Inouye said. "But through the efforts of the Hawai'i congressional delegation and its supporters, the programs were restored."

"These are important programs, they serve Native Hawaiians in a number of different settings," Kippen said. "They fund early education, curriculum development, science, math and Native Hawaiian language programs for Native Hawaiians in a manner consistent with the cultural and language traditions of the Native Hawaiian students it intends to serve."

Not all in Hawai'i agree there should be programs or policies designed to help Hawaiians only, or primarily Hawaiians.

Attorney H. William Burgess, who heads the group Aloha for All, said while he does not know too much about these specific programs, "the proposed elimination of those programs is probably because they are race-based, that is they give special benefits based on racial ancestry."

"That's forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. Programs that are not based on merit or need sometimes have the opposite effect on the intended beneficiaries."

Kippen said the program is mandated by Congress, which recognizes the needs of Native Hawaiians that need to be addressed by the U.S. government.

Clyde Namu'o, administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said: "The Office of Hawaiian Affairs believes the elimination of funding would have a negative impact on important educational programs which serve Native Hawaiians and which benefit all of Hawai'i. OHA is confident, however, that members of Hawai'i's congressional delegation will continue to support these programs as they have done in the past."

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com and Dennis Camire at dcamire@gns.gannett.com.

Correction: Collin Kippen is executive director of the Native Hawaiian Education Council. An incorrect organization was named in a previous version of this story.