BY EDDIE KIM – A federal law that demands gender equity in high school and college athletics will help East Oahu’s Kaiser High School and Kalani High School each land millions of dollars for new girls locker rooms.
In a recent budget report by the legislature (House Bill 200, Items 34 and 36 under Capital Improvement Projects), lawmakers appropriated various sums of potential bond funding for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 fiscal years.
Kaiser was appropriated $700,000 in planning and design funds for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, with $6.5 million designated for construction in the following year.
Kalani was appropriated $800,000 for the design phase, with no construction funds allocated for the following year.
However, Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R – Kaimuki-Waialae-Kahala), who represents the area in the state House, said up to $8 million will be allotted in the near future.
“Kalani, and I’m sure Kaiser, could use these funds,” Marumoto said. “Kalani in particular doesn’t exactly have the nicest facilities, and I’ve heard stories about how girls, both there and from visiting schools, don’t really have a place to change and prepare for athletic events. It’s disappointing.”
While Title IX mandates requirements for educational equality, it does not contribute funds towards school projects. Instead, the state is fully responsible for meeting standards and must rely on state funds.
House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro, (D- 39 – Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley), noted the project will be funded by general obligation bonds ultimately paid for by Hawaii taxpayers.
“As all the money for these sorts of capital improvement projects (CIPs) comes from the state fund, the funding, and consequent debt, is a sort of investment by taxpayers in the state,” Oshiro said.
While the thought of the state incurring more debt is a concern for many Hawaii residents, Oshiro emphasized, considering that the project is technically part of a federal requirement, that now is the best time to take on a debt.
“In all likelihood, we’ll be getting a 15 to 20 percent discount of sorts from construction and design companies due to a lack of jobs in the private sector during this down economy,” Oshiro said.
Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation, also mentioned that bond funding has the advantage of long-term repayment. “The investment of millions today will be a relative bargain in 20 years or however long the state determines the repayment period to be,” Kalapa said. “It’s certainly better than using cash funds.”
But while the budget bill appropriated the funds, it’s not necessarily clear when the schools will receive the money for the projects.
According to Oshiro, the projects will have to clear further legislative processes, including getting signed off by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. The state’s Department of Education will be involved as well, as various school projects requiring government funding necessitates prioritizing within in the DoE budget.
Supporters say Title IX, which was promoted by then Hawaii Congresswoman Patsy Mink, has leveled the playing field for female athletes, and they point to female participation in both high school and college sports having increased exponentially.
Critics say the mandate potentially discriminates against male athletics for the sake of meeting equality standards and fulfilling what critics call a “quota” for girls.
However, this does not appear the issue at hand with the potential Kalani and Kaiser projects.
Both Marumoto and Sen. Pohai Ryan, (D-Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawaii Kai), who helped bring about the appropriations for Kaiser, stressed that the projects are simply a matter of fixing a lack of facilities for girls.
“As a female Senator, gender equity is very important to me and should not be treated as an inconvenience,” Ryan wrote in an email. “I guess another option would be to take away the boys facilities, but we all know that is unrealistic.”