Kanu o ka Aina Learning Ohana

Keeping up with growing demand for Hawaiian focused education

Taffy Wise, executive director of the Kanu O Ka Aina Learning Center, discusses the opportunities and challenges facing Hawaiian-focused charter schools, as well as the significance of support from OHA.

Student enrollment at the state's 17 Hawaiian-focused charter schools, run by independent organizations, reached 4,033 this year, from 127 students in 2000, when the first school of the kind opened.

"I don't know what we would do without support from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs," said Wise, who hosted in October an OHA Board of Trustees meeting at her school's campus. "OHA's support literally keeps our doors open."

Since 2005, OHA has contributed $9.6 million to the 17 charter schools that make up the Na Lei Na'auao Alliance.

For the 2011-2012 school year, the alliance received a $1.5 million grant from OHA to help cover various costs associated with teaching and feeding students, as well as transporting them to school. The alliance has requested the same amount for the 2012-2013 school year. The OHA Board of Trustees has expressed optimism for Hawaiian-focused charter schools, saying that they fit into broader efforts at OHA to help improve public education within the Native Hawaiian community.

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