Friday, January 11, 2002


Big Isle charter
school sues state

The suit accuses the state of not
funding the school adequately


By Rod Thompson

HILO >> The Connections New Century Public Charter School of Hilo has sued the state Department of Education, state Auditor Marion Higa and others for allegedly failing to provide proper funding to the school.

The suit was filed yesterday by Legal Aid Society attorney David Kimo Frankel on behalf of the school.

Connections, which began at Mountain View Elementary School, south of Hilo, now operates in the former Kress building in downtown Hilo. It serves 355 children in an east Hawaii geographic area extending from Honokaa north of Hilo to Volcano south of the city.

Attorney Bryan Fitzgerald advised the Department of Education in November that the school would sue if the department did not account for $400,000, which the department claimed was given to the school but which the school says it never received.

The suit filed yesterday says the department broke its contract with the school by changing the method used to determine how much money the school gets.

The school now gets more than 30 percent less than it used to, the suit says.

As a result, Connections gets less money per student than noncharter schools, the suit says.

The decreased funding came, in part, because the department stopped including special-education students in the count of students at the school, the suit says.

The department also prevented the school from using Mountain View Elementary but provided no alternative site or funding, the suit says.

Unlike other public schools, Connections gets no funding for a library, electricity, water, telephones, sewage or custodians, the suit says.

During a meeting of the Board of Education yesterday in Hilo, board member Donna Ikeda, who chairs a committee dealing with charter schools, said she had received a summons in the case.

As a result, a committee meeting planned for Jan. 23 is canceled until further notice, she said.

Board Executive Director Galen Onouye said the suit would be referred today to the Attorney General's Office.


2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin