”’Congressman Ed Case (Hawaii, Second District) today called for the federal government “to substantially increase education funding” to public and charter schools in Hawaii which have experienced “severe short-funding” and need help serving the state’s special education students.”’

“I am disappointed that the president’s budget proposes to fund NCLB (No Child Left Behind) at $9.4 billion under authorized levels,” said Case in prepared testimony today to a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and chaired by U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye at Kaimuki High School in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“Since NCLB was signed into law, it has been underfunded by $26.5 billion or 21.7 percent. I am also very dismayed that the budget only requests an increase for IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) of $1 billion, which does get the federal government more than halfway to full funding for our special needs children, but still more than $36 billion short of full funding.”

NCLB “and its one-size fits-all regulations” doesn’t always work in remote rural areas such as Hana, Maui where teacher retention is a major problem, said Case. “As you know, under NCLB a teacher who has a degree in only one content area is not considered to be ‘highly qualified’ to teach more than that particular content area. This should not apply to a rural isolated school with a limited amount of teachers that is forced to use one teacher to teach a multitude of subjects.”

Case added that he supports the President’s request for $219 million for charter schools funding in FY2005, but urged the subcommittee to ensure charter schools, such as Kanu O Ka Aina on the Big Island and Kula Aupuni Niihau A Kahelelani Aloha on Kauai, receive more help building facilities and their fair share of federal funds to help special needs students.

“Among the most exciting developments in the field of education is the evolution of an emphasis on Native Hawaiian education, which centers on Hawaii’s indigenous population, and the creation of programs uniquely tailored to meet the needs of this community,” said Case who urged the subcommittee to keep education a top priority, especially because the geographic isolation of many rural communities in his district hinders access to educational services.

He cited Senator Inouye’s instrumental role in the establishment and funding of the Native Hawaii Education Act which has received the full support of the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, the Bush Administration is requesting full funding at $33 million for FY 2005-the same level funded in FY 2004.

Case also highlighted the need for community health centers to address a developing crisis in the delivery of high quality health care in isolated rural areas of his district where “options and access are severely limited.”

He said he supports the president’s FY 2005 budget request of $219 million to help community health centers extend services to 1.6 million individuals. “New health centers in remote communities need our continued support, and I am hopeful that such funds could aid in the establishment of community health centers in areas like West Hawaii and North Oahu or further the development of Molokai Ohana Health Care.

“It has been empirically demonstrated that minority populations across our nation disproportionately lack access to quality healthcare,” said Case. “For example, minority groups are less likely to have health insurance and are less likely to receive appropriate healthcare services. These communities are also significantly underrepresented in our healthcare workforce. I am fully committed to the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare access, quality, and in our healthcare workforce, because we all deserve equal treatment when it comes to our health.”

Case testified on the need for federal support to stamp out the “ice” epidemic in Hawaii. “I commend the work of this subcommittee in providing assistance for a major rural health concern: fighting our crystal methamphetamine epidemic. We all know that the true solution to the scourge of ice lies in supporting the efforts of our law enforcement officers, preventing drug use through education, and providing local rehabilitation options to treat the disease of addiction. I agree that uniquely, it is up to our federal government to take the lead on this issue as it is the only entity with the full resources and ability to coordinate this indispensable multi-pronged approach to stamping out drug abuse.”

Finally, Case highlighted the need for human services in his district which is home to “a large population of financially-disadvantaged families, all of whom have great needs ranging from job training to transportation to child care. Hawaii’s geographic makeup is in and of itself a barrier to seeking employment in other states or other islands,” he said.

Community action agencies, such as Honolulu Community Action Program, Maui Economic Opportunity, Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council, and Kauai Economic Opportunity, “depend on federal support to meet the growing needs of the communities they serve,” said Case in crediting the agencies for their work in serving the needs of the entire community. “I encourage the subcommittee to fund programs that these agencies rely on at the highest possible level. They do pay off!”

”’Statement by Congressman Ed Case of Hawaii before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Kaimuki High School, Honolulu, Hawaii on Feb. 18, 2004”’

Chairman Specter, Ranking Member Harkin, Senator Inouye, and Members of the Subcommittee:

Aloha. I want first to extend a deep and sincere mahalo to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies for holding this hearing here in our Hawai’i. Your Subcommittee’s support of so many vital programs throughout Hawaii over the years, your recognition and accommodation of our often unique needs, and your effort to travel so far to learn firsthand the impressive results of the programs you’ve funded and the many challenges we still face, is greatly appreciated by all of the 1.3 million citizens of the proud Fiftieth State.

Overview. I represent Hawaii’s Second District, which includes all eight of the major islands of Hawaii, as well as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The only area of Hawaii I do not represent is urban Honolulu.

The Second District is predominantly suburban and rural, and much of it is also very isolated. In these characteristics, it is not unlike other such districts throughout our country, where federal assistance is often vital to assuring a basic quality of life to residents without access, physically or economically, to opportunities and services available in our country’s urban cores.

But Hawaii generally and my Second District specifically is also virtually unique in other ways. First, of course, Hawaii is one of the few regions of our country which is an archipelago, with its residents separated by water. This creates unique challenges requiring unique solutions.

For example, Kaunakakai on the Second District’s Island of Molokai is only about 40 miles from Honolulu, but the services available in Honolulu are not readily accessible to the people of Molokai. Incomes are low on Molokai and interisland flights are scarce and expensive. Therefore, Molokai residents are extremely dependent on locally available services in health care, education, and job training.

Hawai’i generally and my Second District specifically are also among the most ethnically diverse in our entire country. Minorities make up more than half of our population, including the highest percentage of Asian and Pacific Islander populations in the nation. We have 20 percent of our population comprised of Native Hawaiians, our state’s indigenous population. And Hawaii ranks third of all states for the highest percentage of persons born outside of the United States. Thus, delivery of services by our federal government is most effective when designed with an understanding of language and cultural barriers that might exist. This Subcommittee has shown great sensitivity to this need in the past by funding targeted services to meet the special needs of Native Hawaiians, including the Native Hawaiian Education and Health Care programs.

In this context, I am delighted to learn that Subcommittee staff has already taken the opportunity to visit our schools and health centers, as well as various programs at the University of Hawaii. I am especially pleased to know that you will be visiting tomorrow my home Island of Hawaii, where so many of the challenges as well as innovative solutions which offer examples for our entire country are centered.

Priorities. I would like to take this opportunity to outline what I see as priority areas for Hawaii generally and my Second District specifically in the areas under your Subcommittee’s jurisdiction.

Education

Education should be, and is, our primary challenge and top priority. This is particularly true throughout the Second District because of the factors described above. Here are some of the primary areas where targeted federal assistance will make a huge difference.

Native Hawaiian education. Among the most exciting developments in the field of education is the evolution of an emphasis on Native Hawaiian education, which centers on Hawaii’s indigenous population, and the creation of programs uniquely tailored to meet the needs of this community.

At the federal level, the Native Hawaiian Education Act, which currently consolidates six grant programs (Native Hawaiian Family-Based Education Centers; Native Hawaiian Curriculum Development, Teacher Training, and Recruitment; Native Hawaiian Gifted and Talented; Native Hawaiian Higher Education; Native Special Education; and Native Hawaiian Community-Based Education Learning Centers) is one of the most important contributions. I fully support and commend President Bush for requesting full funding at $33 million for FY 2005, the same level funded in FY 2004. Sen. Inouye was instrumental in the Act’s establishment and funding all these years. It is notable that we finally have the full support of the Department of Education.

To assist the state in Hawaii’s 3R’s projects, the Native Hawaiian Education Act recently authorized $1 million to be used for construction repairs at public schools with significant numbers of Native Hawaiian children, many of which are located in my district. These funds are badly needed. I understand that out of 72 projects that the state is currently considering as part of its construction projects, 36 are in my district, including Waianae Intermediate, Nanakuli Elementary and High School, Blanche Pope Elementary, and Kaunakakai Elementary. Total costs for schools in my district would be $1,058,893 out of $2,292,482 statewide.

I would also like to express my support for the University of Hawaii Law School’s efforts in developing a program in Native Hawaiian law. I understand that $300,000 has been appropriated as seed money. The program’s objective is to provide outreach on Native Hawaiian rights to the community and schools at all levels, to promote the development of Native Hawaiian rights, and to provide an archive of Hawaiian records through digitalization in conjunction with Hamilton Library and other parties.

Charter schools. As an ardent advocate for Hawaii’s charter schools, I fully support the President’s FY 2005 request for $219 million for charter schools funding. I was extremely pleased that President Bush’s FY 2005 budget requests $100 million for much-needed credit enhancements for charter school facilities.

As I travel around my district, from Kanu O Ka Aina in Kamuela on the Big Island of Hawaii to Kula Aupuni Niihau A Kahelelani Aloha in Makaweli on the Island of Kauai, I hear two main concerns from the charter schools: 1) obtaining more assistance for facilities and 2) ensuring federal IDEA and Title I funds are properly dispersed to charters. Clearly construction funding is one of the greater challenges facing our charter schools locally and nationally. It is my hope that we can see increased federal funding for these projects and an extension of Hawaii’s 3R’s program to include charter school construction projects.

I am also very excited about the state’s new and innovative public-private partnerships law, which I cosponsored as a state legislator, that will allow qualified nonprofits such as Kamehameha Schools to partner with various charter schools to help more Native Hawaiian children. This new partnership allows conversion charter schools, such as Waimea Middle School, to receive much-needed funding and instructional support from Kamehameha Schools. As you can see, Hawaii is building on Congressional support for charter schools and continues to seek innovative ways to support the creation and success of these schools.

NCLB/IDEA. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my strong support for the goals of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and for the federal commitment to provide 40 percent of the total cost of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, I believe that there has been a severe short-funding of these two critically important laws that creates a terrible burden on states and leaves true education reform out of reach.

I am disappointed that the President’s FY 2005 budget proposes to fund NCLB at $9.4 billion under authorized levels. Since NCLB was signed into law, it has been underfunded by $26.5 billion or 21.7 percent. I am also very dismayed that the budget only requests an increase for IDEA of $1 billion, which does get the federal government more than halfway to full funding (40 percent) for our special needs children, but still more than $36 billion short of full funding. While the budget represents a small increase in education funding, I would strongly urge the Subcommittee to substantially increase NCLB and IDEA.

Besides being an unfunded mandate, NCLB and its one-size-fits-all regulations, formulated 5,000 miles away from Hawaii, do not always work in my district. There needs to be more flexibility for rural areas such as Hana, an extremely isolated community on Maui that qualifies for Essential Air Service because of its remoteness. Teacher retention is a big issue for Hana Elementary and High School and all my schools, and NCLB further exacerbates the problem. As you know, under NCLB a teacher who has a degree in only one content area is not considered to be “highly qualified” to teach more than that particular content area. This should not apply to a rural isolated school with a limited amount of teachers that is forced to use one teacher to teach a multitude of subjects.

Impact Aid. As you travel around Hawaii, you will undoubtedly note our large military population. As military action continues in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with Hawaii a major component of the military’s transformation into a quick response unit, it is now more important than ever to give the necessary support to our military families and to strengthen the Impact Aid program to directly reimburse the state for the loss of traditional revenue sources due to the military presence.

I was dismayed that the president’s budget calls for level funding in FY 2005, which will not account for inflation, and will likely jeopardize services and programs for these families. I would strongly encourage the Subcommittee to support our state and our military families by increasing funds for Impact Aid.

Health

Challenges we face in regard to healthcare are as unique as each of our islands. We share the concerns of other rural areas in our nation in terms of healthcare access, delivery, and quality. However, we must again take into account our geographic isolation, not only from the contiguous United States but also from our neighbor islands to the Island of Oahu, as well as our multicultural population which deserves culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate healthcare.

Community health centers. We all know that community health centers improve the health of our nation by providing comprehensive primary and preventive health care services to underserved populations, regardless of their ability to pay. Our community health centers play an even larger role in our rural communities where options and access are severely limited.

I support President Bush’s FY 2005 budget request of $219 million to help our community health centers extend services to an additional 1.6 million individuals. New health centers in remote communities need our continued support, and I am hopeful that such funds could aid in the establishment of community health centers in areas like West Hawaii and North Oahu or further the development of Molokai Ohana Health Care.

I appreciate that the Senate Appropriations Committee has recognized that federal community health center funds are often not available to small, remote communities in Hawai’i because our population base may not be large enough to meet particular requirements. I agree with the Committee’s recommendation that the Health Resources and Services Administration examine its regulations and application procedures to ensure that they are not unduly burdensome and are appropriately flexible to meet the needs of our distinctive communities. I further join the Committee in supporting increased use of telemedicine to maximize resources and collaborative communication.

Minority healthcare. It has been empirically demonstrated that minority populations across our nation disproportionately lack access to quality healthcare. For example, minority groups are less likely to have health insurance and are less likely to receive appropriate healthcare services. These communities are also significantly underrepresented in our healthcare workforce. I am fully committed to the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare access, quality, and in our healthcare workforce, because we all deserve equal treatment when it comes to our health. I believe that the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii serves as a shining example of how we can nationally strive to better serve our multicultural populations.

I would like to especially commend the Senate Appropriations Members and staff for their efforts on Native Hawaiian health care. I know that FY 2004 saw a welcome increase in funding of $12 million for the Native Hawaiian Health Care Program. I hope that this level of funding is either maintained or increased for FY 2005. Health education, disease prevention service, and primary care services for Native Hawaiians is a key objective, and Papa Ola Lokahi has done an excellent job in employing a culturally appropriate strategic plan in cooperation with the Native Hawaiian health care systems that serve the Hawaiian community on all of the islands in the state. An important component of the Act is the Native Hawaiian Health Professionals Scholarship Program, which seeks to increase the number of Native Hawaiians in health care professions. I believe that this is consistent with national efforts to increase the number of underrepresented minority populations in health professions.

Drug/ice abuse. General drug abuse, of course, has plagued many of our communities for decades. We know that the roots of drug abuse lie largely where educational and economic opportunity are lacking and the social and community fabric are torn. Thus, in the big picture and long term, our best efforts to stamp out drug abuse lie in fixing our economy, improving our schools, and strengthening our families and communities.

I commend the work of this Subcommittee in providing assistance for a major rural health concern: fighting our crystal methamphetamine epidemic. We all know that the true solution to the scourge of ice lies in supporting the efforts of our law enforcement officers, preventing drug use through education, and providing local rehabilitation options to treat the disease of addiction. I agree that it is up to our federal government to take the lead on this issue as it is the only entity with the full resources and ability to coordinate this indispensable multi-pronged approach to stamping out drug abuse.

Most encouraging, whole communities are rising up across our state to say: yes, ice is our problem, and we must all be part of the solution. Kahaluu on the Island of Oahu was the first community to hold “ice breaker” meetings and start sign-waving efforts. My own home island, the Big Island of Hawaii, will soon be holding its third islandwide “Hugs Not Drugs” sign-waving campaign, which in the past has had the support of over one thousand citizens from 23 communities and neighborhoods. I am also happy to report that the Coalition for a Drug-Free Lanai, the North Hawaii Drug-Free Coalition Network, and the West Kauai Community Coalition are all recipients of grants provided under the Drug-Free Communities Support Program in 2003.

Human Services

My district also has a large population of financially disadvantaged families, all of whom have great needs ranging from job training to transportation to child care. Hawaii’s geographic makeup is in and of itself a barrier to seeking employment in other states or other islands.

Community action programs. However, Hawaii’s Community Action Programs are doing a tremendous job servicing the needs of the entire community and are making lives better through job training, Head Start centers, even offering a local bus service. We currently have four extremely successful Community Action Programs; Honolulu Community Action Program (HCAP), Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO), Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council (HCEOC), and Kauai Economic Opportunity (KEO).

MEO was recently awarded the “Award for Excellence in Community Action” by the National Action Partnership. This prestigious award, which is given to the top four Community Action Agencies in the nation, demonstrates MEO’s excellence through the many programs that improve Maui’s communities and help people change their lives.

HCEOC has also been extremely successful in obtaining funds to meet the community’s needs, so much so that it was recently awarded a Department of Labor grant for $4.2 million to develop new strategies to get people off of government assistance and back to work. There were only a handful of these competitive grants awarded and HCEOC was among this select group.

These Community Action Agencies depend on federal support to meet the growing needs of the communities they serve. I encourage the Subcommittee to fund programs that these agencies rely on at the highest possible level. They do pay off.

Labor: Defense and Information Technology-Related Workforce Training

Many of us have long believed in the potential synergy between our nation’s increasing military presence in Hawaii and private sector research and development in defense and related industries. If and as we can realize that synergy, we can ensure development of sustainable industries and quality employment, especially on Islands other than Oahu.

There are already two examples of this potential coming to fruition. On the Island of Kauai, our country’s Pacific Missile Range Facility is the largest employer. But now we also see increased development of private industry clustered around and servicing as well as accessing the facilities of PMRF. Similarly, on the Island of Maui, private development centered in Kihei around military-related investment has created a solid base of quality employment for that island’s constituency.

In large part to this end, for years our state and local governments have committed resources to nurturing high tech, particularly information technology, development in Hawaii. In response to the aggressive support of our high tech sector, Hawaii now has 19 enterprise zones and a similar number of industrial and technology parks. The islands have produced leading edge research in genetics, energy, astronomy, oceanography, photovoltaic, and climatology.

As with any state, however, we also have an equal number of challenges. Hawaii generates fewer patents than 45 other states, and the level of industry research and development activity trails 41 states. These challenges are particularly burdensome on Hawaii’s military and related industries, which depend on a high tech workforce. The military’s research facilities include Pearl Harbor, the Maui Space Surveillance System on Haleakala, the Maui High Performance Computing Center in Kihei, and PMRF on Kauai — the worlds largest instrumented, multidimensional testing and training range.

These military research and testing centers depend upon a vibrant local workforce. The federal government needs to build long-term relationships with our local school and universities, with special attention to community colleges on the Neighbor Islands that are eager to help educate the next generation of local born and bred high tech workers to service defense facilities on their islands.

Without adequate support, the federal government, and the military in particular, will not be able to realize the full potential of their operations in Hawaii, nor the full fruition of the benefits to local communities from fully diversified economies. I thus strongly urge the Subcommittee to support increased funding for local job training and vocation education programs that the President has proposed to cut by $316 million for FY 2005.

Conclusion. Again, for all of us in the Second District and throughout Hawaii, I express to the Subcommittee my deep appreciation for coming to our islands for this hearing and for the support you have given us over the years. We look forward to working with you to allow Hawaii to show the way for our entire country in the vital matters within your purview.

Mahalo, and aloha.

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