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Principal pushes back against commission's ruling to cut $1M from charter school budget

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Kamalani Academy

Kamalani Academy in Wahiawa is facing a $1 million budget cut after the commission decided this week not to count all 335 students at the school in its total enrollment.

HONOLULU (KITV4) - The head of an O'ahu charter school claims a recent ruling from the Hawai'i State Public Charter School Commission is denying its students the education they deserve. 

Kamalani Academy in Wahiawa is facing a $1 million budget cut after the commission decided this week not to count all 335 students at the school in its total enrollment. 

According to the commission, Kamalani's enrollment increased 169 students between August and October, after it launched a blended virtual and in-person learning program it was not allowed to. 

The commission funds each charter school per student. 

Amanda Fung, principal of Kamalani, argued all of the school's current students should be included in the enrollment tally because its contract allows for a max capacity of 477 people. 

Fung added the commission's decision "is taking away charter school autonomy."

"That is what we're about, is having the autonomy to teach children the way that we feel they should be taught," Fung said.

During a Sept. 9 meeting, the principal reported the school launched the virtual program that was expected to bring in more than 180 students. 

The commission asked to meet with the board chair and principal to express their concerns over the contract breach. 

Five days later, the commission requested more details on the program. 

Public documents from the commission state "no information was provided to the commission despite several inquiries."

Some parents fear a slashed budget could force their kids to lose their spot at the school, which Fung said she will not allow. 

"We are not unenrolling any student at this point and that's because our students are our number one priority, it's not funding and it's not money. It is what our students in our community need and right now the biggest need is virtual learning due to the pandemic," Fung added. 

The principal is seeking legal counsel on the matter and plans to reach out to the US Dept. of Education to determine next steps. 

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