Empowerment and innovation: The future starts here

Posted on Feb 27, 2017 in Featured

Windward Community College graduates celebrate!

Empowerment and innovation go hand in hand. Just ask Waipahu High School’s student Early College “Olympians” who are on their way to college degrees. Or the Milken award-winning teachers who empower their students through creative, innovative projects. Or the budding entrepreneurs at UH and in the Department of Business and Economic Development and Tourism business accelerators.

All are part of a brave, new world that can help Hawai‘i build an “innovation economy.” With his budget initiatives, Governor Ige wants to propel our progress forward, through a pipeline that connects education and training with the jobs of the future. His commitment to education reform dates back to 1994 when, as a young legislator, the governor helped develop the Weighted Student Formula, a way to distribute funds to schools based on student needs and give principals more control over school funding.

“In the empowerment model, the initiative comes from the school and the community,” said the governor. “We need to find ways to create a school culture of innovation and fresh thinking to inspire students. It’s schools like Momilani Elementary wanting their students to learn coding, then finding the resources to put together a program. It comes from them. They’re motivated, and that’s when it becomes powerful. It also increases the chances that it’s sustainable because it didn’t come from the top down. Schools need to be able to design their own programs and be accountable for the results.”

Now, with the new Blueprint for Public Education based on input from more than 3,000 school and community members statewide, the governor wants to make more progress through targeted funding in several areas. As he has outlined:

• Weighted Student Formula –“I’m proposing adding $10 million each year to this fund, which provides flexibility for principals in funding priorities for their schools.”
New Innovation Grant program – “I’m also recommending $10 million in each of the next two years to support school-level innovations, including closing the achievement gap for special needs, immigrants and low-income students. The grants are intended to encourage schools to fund initiatives they couldn’t carve out of their regular budgets.”
• The Hawai‘i Promise Program – “This proposal establishes ‘last dollar’ funding that would cover the costs for tuition, fees, books and supplies for students with financial need at a UH community college. The support would cover any unmet need (other than living expenses) after all federal and state financial aid and scholarships are applied.”
Expanded Early College – “I’m supporting $6 million in state funding for this successful program to make this opportunity available to as many public school students as possible statewide.”
Hawai‘i Strategic Development Corporation’s HI Growth Initiative – “I’m proposing $5 million to be added to the HSDC revolving fund to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Read more in our March issue.