Office of Hawaiian Affairs Meets with Key White House Officials

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BY LLOYD YONENAKA FOR OHA – Washington, DC – Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Chairperson Haunani Apoliona and CEO Clyde Namu’o met today with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who serves as Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and Kiran Ahuja, WHIAAPI Executive Director, to discuss partnership opportunities to develop solid strategies that will provide Native Hawaiians with increased access to education and other federal programs.  The goal is increased student education achievement and outcomes, P-20, pre-school to PhD.

As of spring 2009, Native Hawaiian students comprised 28 percent of the youth in the Hawai’i unified public school system.  Enrollment of Native Hawaiians in public schools in rural communities exceeds 50 percent Native Hawaiians.  We want to close the education achievements and outcomes gaps experienced by many Native Hawaiians.


OHA is the Native Hawaiian entity named in the Native Hawaiian Education Act with a seat on the Native Hawaiian Education Council.

Successful education outcomes are a priority for President Barrack Obama, Hawai’i Governor Neil Abercrombie, Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Native Hawaiian community.

Also participating at this meeting were representatives from U.S. Department of Education office for civil rights, Native Hawaiian education programs, charter schools, teacher recruitment campaign and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and OHA staff from both Washington, DC and Honolulu, HI.

Meeting topics included the Native Hawaiian Education Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, President’s Blue Print, Native Hawaiian culture-based education and charter schools.

“We are taking action now by having productive discussions that identify how OHA can most effectively partner with federal agencies to achieve better education opportunities for Native Hawaiians,” said OHA CEO Clyde Namu’o.

OHA specifically requested support of the following issues:

1.       Continued and increased funding of the Native Hawaiian Education Act (NHEA) as well as the assignment of specific representatives that will develop a closer working and consultative relationship on Native Hawaiian education matters with OHA and the current State Council and Executive Director of the statewide Native Hawaiian Education Council.

2.       Consider an exception for the State of Hawai‘i regarding education-related grants that are limited to application by school districts.  Hawai‘i has only one unified school district, and if the state does not seek a particular funding opportunity, that opportunity is lost to Hawai‘i and the Native Hawaiian community. OHA is ready to meet with the Secretary’s designated representatives to discuss alternatives, and is willing to explore the possibility of OHA applying as a quasi-independent state entity, to access these federal dollars.

3.       Assign designated representatives to meet with OHA to identify specific partnership projects that OHA, WHIAAPI and U.S. DOE can work together with Native Hawaiian Education Council to:

A.       Increase school graduation rates and standardized test scores among Native Hawaiians, while including an understanding of Hawaiian culture-based and language immersion modifications in standardized measures;

B.      Increase funding to assure greater access to Hawaiian culture-based education programs and charter schools, and Hawaiian language immersion programs;

C.      Increase availability of funding and technical resources for more effective data collection for outcome measures, analysis, and regular reporting of targeted strategies to achieve education results for Native Hawaiians, for accountability, program redesign and replication.

4.       Join OHA in urging all federal agencies and others as required, to support full compliance with the current Office of Management and Budget race and ethnicity standards for data collection and reporting.  This assures data is collected and reported on Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders as a category, and not blended in with other categories.

Namu’o stated, “The overall purpose of OHA’s trip to DC is to strengthen our relationships with the White House and federal agencies, identify opportunities to work together to increase Native Hawaiian access to education and other federal programs to achieve OHA’s mission and strategic priorities.  In addition to the WHIAAPI, U.S. DOE, we are meeting with Department of Interior representatives and Department of Justice representatives.”

OHA is also meeting with the Hawai’i congressional delegation on the status of passage of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act.

Submitted by Lloyd Yonenaka, Media Relations and Messaging Manager for OHA.