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Washington, D.C. –The Hawaii Congressional Delegation today introduced a bipartisan bill that will extend and improve the Native Hawaiian Education Act, an existing program that has created educational opportunities for thousands of Native Hawaiian children and families.

“Thousands of Native Hawaiian students have benefitted from the Native Hawaiian Education Act and over the past several years I have had the opportunity to hear many of their inspiring stories firsthand,” said Senator Hirono. “Our bill will increase the program’s accountability and transparency, and guarantee that future generations of Native Hawaiians will continue to receive a culturally relevant education. I will continue to work closely with my Hawaii and Alaska delegation colleagues to invest in quality education opportunities for our keiki and protect our special commitment to the Native Hawaiian community.”

“For decades, the Native Hawaiian Education Act has provided the critical resources necessary to confront the unique educational needs of our Native Hawaiian community,” said Senator Schatz.  “Our bill would make key improvements that would expand grant opportunities and make the Native Hawaiian Education Council more accountable to the communities it serves.” 

“The Native Hawaiian Education Act empowers our native communities that have largely been underserved, through education, and preserves the rich and unique culture, language, and values our native people,” said Congresswoman Gabbard. “For the last 27 years, the NHEA has served as a critical and innovative program that enables our communities to thrive. Parents and educators from across the islands count on the expanded educational opportunity this legislation provides for their children, and it is vital that we come together to empower these young students to succeed.”

“The improvements being introduced to the Native Hawaiian Education Act will help to better a program that has assisted generations of Native Hawaiian students. The changes will allow for increased access to grants and greater clarity for the evolving educational needs of the Native Hawaiian population,” said Congressman Takai. “I am happy to see the bipartisan show of support for this important bill, I look forward to continuing the improvements we started and preserving the special relationship we have with the Native Hawaiian community.”

Senators Mazie K. Hirono, Brian Schatz, and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Senate version of the Native Hawaiian Reauthorization Act of 2015. Representatives Tulsi Gabbard, Mark Takai, and Don Young (R-AK) are original sponsors of the House bill.

The Native Hawaiian Education Act provides grants for innovative Native Hawaiian educational programs across the state and created the Native Hawaiian Education Council to provide recommendations to the United States Department of Education about the needs of, and priorities for, Native Hawaiian students. Grantees have provided innovative education opportunities for Native Hawaiian students ranging from the Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool program to better preparing Native Hawaiian students for pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math.

The Native Hawaiian Education Reauthorization Act would extend this vital grant program for five years and increases the program’s transparency by designating stakeholders such as elected officials and University of Hawaii officials with at least five years of experience in Native Hawaiian education to serve on the Council. The Council will also be required to hold yearly community consultations on each of Hawaii’s six major islands and submit an annual report to the U.S. Department of Education explaining its funding recommendations. The bill also aims to strengthen the Council’s voice by requiring an annual report from the U.S. Department of Education on the program’s funding and results. The bill would also clarify that Native Hawaiian charter schools are eligible to apply directly for grants.