Efforts To Fund Early Learning, Area Schools

By Sen. Michelle Kidani


Notes from the Capitol
With the adjournment of the legislative session last week, I am able to report on some of the measures that will affect us in Senate District 18.

When I accepted the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Education, I focused my attention on strengthening early learning programs and needed reforms to toughen fiscal accountability in our public charter school system.

In a tight budget year, we did have some limited success, highlighted by the agreement to restore $6 million to the administration’s budget to fund the Preschool Open Doors (POD) program for another year.

POD has helped mitigate the negative impact of new rules for junior kindergarten enrollment that went into effect this year — affecting as many as 4,000 youngsters statewide.

The state still needs a comprehensive plan for early learning, and we passed another bill to officially establish a prekindergarten program under the Office on Early Learning that will be administratively assigned to the Department of Education next year.

For charter schools, we tightened up fiscal accountability rules to require that any charter school that is financially insolvent — failing to make staff payroll on time — will have its charter revoked, bypassing the normal revocation process.

New projects funded in the budget or through grants-in-aid include:

• $350,000 for upgrades to Waipahu High School Culinary Academy

• $1.45 million for a new covered walkway at Kaleiopuu Elementary in Village Park

• $50,000 for technology center upgrades at Filipino Community Center in Waipahu

• $140,000 for renovations in the performing arts facilities at Hawaii Okinawa Center in Waipio

• $24 million for the UH West Oahu Administration and Allied Health building.

UH West Oahu

It is always a pleasure to visit the campus of “our” university, UH West Oahu, especially for commencement exercises. Over the past weekend, I attended ceremonies for this year’s largest-ever class of 226 graduates.

The registrar’s office did a quick count for me and confirmed that UHWO is doing a great job of serving residents of our area.

Nearly 28 percent of the class (a total of 63 grads) list Waipahu or Mililani ZIP code home addresses, validating our investment in this brand-new campus to help fulfill the dreams of Central and West Oahu stu dents and their families. The student speaker, Mellissa Lochman of Waipio, is a perfect example of dreams fulfilled through hard work.

Mellissa was born on Molokai and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after high school. She served our country for eight years before returning to Hawaii, determined to become the first in her family to earn a college degree. In her years at UHWO, Mellissa was editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper and served on the Communications Committee and Student Media Board.

She also worked as a graphic design student assis tant in the communications department and now is UHWO’s very first graduate awarded a bachelor’s in humanities with a concentration in creative media.

Mellissa’s success story is typical of those that could be told about every one of UHWO’s 226 graduates.

Congratulations to all of you who worked hard to earn your degrees, and good luck in pursuing the next chapter in your lives!

Contact State Sen. Michelle Kidani (District

18 — Village Park, Royal Kunia and Waikele, most of Waipio Gentry, and Mililani Town) at 586-7100 or senki-dani@capitol.hawaii.gov.