Posted tagged ‘Kamehameha Schools’

Kamehameha Schools is getting it right

February 2, 2011

New figures released this week show how much progress Kamehameha Schools has made in its mission to educate Hawaiian children since the scandal of the late 1990s.

One of the most troubling problems back then was that the former trustees who were ultimately removed financed their dubious investments by cutting spending on education.

Outreach programs were virtually eliminated and educational efforts focused on the flagship Kamehameha campus at Kapalama, which could serve only a small fraction of Hawaiian children.

Since then, the diverse group of trustees appointed by the probate court and the school administration led by Dee Jay Mailer have built new Kamehameha campuses on Maui and the Big Island, spending $129 million on the three campuses last year, according to the trust’s annual report.

Even more impressive was the spending on outreach programs that touch tens of thousands of Hawaiian children throughout the state. Outreach spending totalled $102 million last year, up from $57 million in 2006.

Kamehameha Schools has sponsored public charter schools in Hawaiian communities, undertaken cooperative programs with the public schools and other private schools, invested in teacher training, funded preschool and kindergarten scholarships and helped pay for Hawaiian children to go to college.

Even with the increased spending on education, the school’s endowment experienced a healthy growth from $7.2 billion to $7.8 billion.

There’s a world of differences between Kamehameha Schools and Hawai‘i’s  public schools in both resources and mission, but still, there’s much the state can learn from the Kamehameha rebirth as it moves to an appointed Board of Education in hopes of reinvigorating the public schools.

The first thing is to avoid political horse-trading in appointing BOE members and focus on finding people with proven accomplishments in fields relevant to running a large organization like the Department of Education.

The second is to develop an ethic of always serving the needs of the children first — ahead of the interests of adult stakeholders who feed off the public schools.

Kamehameha Schools asks slack, gives none

November 15, 2010

There was a dissonance in two stories about Kamehameha Schools over the weekend.

One in the Star-Advertiser by Rob Perez examined how Honolulu’s real property tax breaks for charitable institutions enables Kamehameha Schools, Hawai‘i’s  richest landowner, to pay only $300 a year in taxes on its 425-acre Kapalama campus that is valued at $157 million — the same tax a couple pays on a single parking space at their Waianae apartment.

A Kamehameha Schools spokesman said the relief is warranted in recognition of the value nonprofits provide to the public good.

Cut to the other story, about small farmers in Kamilonui Valley protesting an attempt by Kamehameha Schools to push their lease rents 28 times higher — from $15 per acre per month to $434.

Judy Nii, operator of a small nursery, is looking at a rent increase from $1,200 a year to $32,000, which threatens the survival of a business with a small profit margin.

“Basically, they’re asking us to work and give them whatever we make,” Nii said.

Kamehameha Schools was totally unsympathetic in a statement: “We appreciate that the Kamilonui lessees are facing a large rent increase, but we also hope the lessees appreciate that they’ve been paying extremely favorable rents for 38 years for land that has provided their livelihood and also their residence.”

I know there’s no direct connection between the two stories, but it leaves a bad taste when a multi-billion-dollar trust that expects an awful lot of slack on taxes it could easily afford refuses to give any slack at all to honest, hardworking farmers who can’t afford higher levies of the magnitude Kamehameha Schools is demanding.

The inevitable outcome if the hardball succeeds is that the farmers will be driven off the land and another piece of green Hawai‘i will be lost to development.

This is an example of public good worthy of enormous tax breaks?


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