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Federal funding secured for Native Hawaiian education

WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz announced Hawai‘i will receive nearly $27 million in new federal funding to support grants under the Native Hawaiian Education Program.

This federal funding was awarded to 23 Native Hawaiian educational programs across the state.

“This new federal funding will ensure that Native Hawaiian educational programs have the resources they need in time for the upcoming school year,” said Schatz. “As we work through the appropriations process, I will keep fighting for more resources for the Native Hawaiian community.”

In August, Schatz sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education urging them not to delay the release of this grant funding until late September, as previously announced.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Native Hawaiian education programs have been invaluable for families, and further disruption to these programs would leave many hard-pressed to find an alternative option for their children, he said.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Schatz has worked to preserve and expand grant funding for NHEP. While President Donald Trump has sought to zero out funding for these grants, Schatz has fought to protect more than $100 million over the last three fiscal years. In addition, he has garnered bipartisan support to increase annual funding for NHEP each year by $3 million.

These multi-year competitive grants will be used for early childhood education, family engagement, Hawaiian-language education, creation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) pathways, curriculum, professional development and more.

Alison Masutani, vice president of operations at Partners in Development Foundation, said what the federal funds mean to their Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool program.

“We feel so grateful and blessed to have received this grant, as it will enable us to continue this program that began in 2001 and has touched thousands of children and their caregivers,” said Masutani.

“We will be adding a parent-education component called Malama ‘Ohana to support our children’s caregivers, particularly through this unprecedented time.”

Masutani said the mission of Partners in Development Foundation is to equip and inspire families and communities for success and service using timeless Native Hawaiian values and traditions.

The foundation received nearly $5 million for early-childhood education programs on the four main Hawaiian islands.

According to Masutani, the goal of Tutu and Me is for children ages birth to 5 years, to receive a strong early education foundation and, at the same time, their caregivers will obtain support and resources that will empower them as adults and as their child’s first and foremost teachers.

The Kaua‘i Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool received $400,000 in federal funds.

“It will be used for personnel, supplies, professional development, rent, vehicle expenses and curriculum,” said Masutani. “We are so grateful for the support of Senator Schatz and his staff.

“They have been strong advocates of the Native Hawaiian Education Program and have been proactive in understanding the needs and many issues that we, as grantees, and our families are facing, and have looked for ways to address them.”

Like so many education entities, Masutani said COVID-19 has impacted their programs.

“We stopped having in-person programming, and the staff began doing an abbreviated, virtual program,” said Masutani.

“Our teams have just amazed me with their ability to pivot and their fearlessness to try a different mode of teaching. Our families have expressed their appreciation for the virtual programming as it brought a sense of normalcy and routine to their lives.”

Jeff Anderson, Kaua‘i Community College’s financial aid director, said KCC is always happy to receive additional federal funds, especially for their Native Hawaiian population.

We will continue to disburse these funds as appropriate and as expeditiously as possible,” Anderson said. “For students who are interested in more detailed information about applying for these funds, please contact the KCC Financial Aid Office.”

Also receiving funds to benefit Kaua‘i programs are Aha Punana Leo, Inc., for its Hawaiian immersion preschools’ kindergarten readiness efforts (around $840,000 statewide), and Keiki O Ka ‘Aina Preschool, Inc., for its Revitalized Instruction in STEM Education (RISE) program on four islands (nearly $775,000).

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Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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