A Kalihi charter school facing closure needs to submit new financial plan

(Via Hawaii News Now)

A Hawaiian Studies public charter school in Kalihi is on the brink of closure. Halau Lokahi Charter School opened 13 years ago. It has had financial problems in the past and now has $417,000 of debt.

Testimony in support of Halau Lokahi School was passionate trying to convince the State Public Charter School Commission not to close it.

“Shutting down Halau Lokahi is not a great idea to do. Keeping Halau Lokahi alive is the thing to do,” said Hinano Paia, Halau Lokahi 9th grade student.

“As a teacher trust me I didn’t get paid but I understand the bigger picture. I think we all need to understand the bigger picture,” said Junior Coleman, Halau Lokahi Teacher.

“All I ask is that you guys find a way to make it work,” said Kilinahe Nahoi, parent.

“I don’t want them in any other school I mean what works for one is not going to work for another,” said Kraig Kina, parent.

Emotions aside, finances matter. The K-12 school is $417,000 in debt. It has had trouble paying rent since February and didn’t pay teachers last pay period.

Enrollment has dropped to 169 students and with it State funding.

Some on the Commission called school leaders financially irresponsible.

The school’s director remained defiant.

“Until the day I die I will continue this cause. Why? Because evidently the Department of Education who has been running system here for so many years hasn’t bothered,” said Laara Allbrett, Halau Lokahi School Director.

“We should have just quit years ago. We should have quit when we saw the frickin government, excuse me, when the government was not going to play fair,” said Allbrett, later in the meeting.

Allbrett had complained her school gets less funding from the state per student.

“In any business that you run if you fall short on revenue you better cut expenses. It’s not that complicated,” said Peter Tomozawa, State Public Charter School Commission Vice Chair. “There is no magic money tree.”

The school says it has a new financial plan. The Commission gave administrators until 5:00 Friday to submit it. It will meet again next Wednesday to decide the school’s fate.

“We certainly want to give them every chance to succeed because we do support the children and what is going on, but any organization that doesn’t have the resources simply can’t continue. You have to be able to continue to pay your staff and pay your rent and that is not happening right now,” said Catherine Payne, State Public Charter School Commission Chair.

Enrollment is crucial. They have 169 students now. They need at least 200 to make the financial plan work.

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