Hirono votes against bill to allow siphoning of education funds

Hawaii Independent Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) today voted in the House Education and the Workforce Committee against H.R. 2445, the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act, which she says makes dangerous changes in federal education policy, dismantling efforts to create equal opportunity in education at the expense of low-income and other disadvantaged students.

“We in Hawaii have fought to provide a good education for our keiki,” said Hirono, member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “People still remember the discriminatory sting of English Standard schools. ‘Separate’ is never equal. This bill would take us backwards.”

The bill would allow the siphoning of funds that support the education of disadvantaged students, she said in a statement. This includes monies that help low-income students and funds for English Language Learners, migrant, neglected, Native American and Alaskan Native students. School districts would be able to move that targeted funding and use it for almost anything allowed under the Elementary and Secondary School Act.

For example, school districts could choose to take away money allocated to their district to help English Language Learners and direct that money to another school for activities that have nothing to do with core academics.

Hawaii’s schools educate almost 18,000 English Language Learners who speak many languages at home, including Tagalog, Marshallese, Ilokano, Chuukese, Samoan, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Chamorro. This bill would allow districts around the country to spend monies—targeted to help these students learn English—on any student. 

“Like a lot of us, I came to this country not reading or speaking English,” Hirono said. “Providing English Language Learning classes is incredibly important to enabling immigrant kids to learn and succeed in school.”

Hawaii’s schools also educate more than 125,000 children in poverty. Title I-A funding, which two-thirds of Hawaii’s schools receive, helps provide support to low-income students. The bill would allow districts around the country to spend Title I-A formula funds on any student.