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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 19, 2010

Big Isle charter school not done deal

By Colin M. Stewart
Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Proponents of a Laupā-hoehoe public charter school still have their work cut out for them, despite last week's big win at the polls.

Members of the group Save/Improve Laupāhoehoe High and Elementary School celebrated last week when community members voted 145-35 in support of pursuing charter status.

The small school, which combines classes in kindergarten through 12th grade, faces possible closure or consolidation by the state Department of Education due to dwindling enrollment currently at 203 if it does not succeed in wiping its slate clean with conversion to a charter school.

Charter proponents worry that they may lose the remainder of a nearly half-million-dollar federal grant if the state does not lift a suspension on the review of charter applications.

Alvin Parker, the chairman of the state Charter School Review Panel, said the panel has not accepted any applications this year and does not plan to do so until the close of the Legislative session.

"The last time we authorized a school was the beginning of this current school year," he said. "We suspended authorization because of the tremendous fiscal challenges in our state, particularly in education."

Parker explained that the budgetary woes have been exacerbated because that his budget is biennial. "We have the same budget from last year in place this year, and we've projected we'll have about 1,000 more students," he said.

"Basically, the more successful we are, we get financially penalized by that success."

There are about 8,000 students enrolled in Hawai'i public charter schools, he said. The system's allocation of money has dropped from $8,000 per student in 2007-08 to $5,000 per student in 2010-11, Parker said.