The educational system in Hawai`i remains one of the most critical institutions available to help low income and immigrant children achieve an equal opportunity to create successful lives for themselves and their families.
Hawai‘i Appleseed works to ensure that the promise our country makes of fairness and equal opportunity for all is strengthened by ensuring that low income and immigrant children are not denied a quality based education because of such barriers as racial or income based discrimination, lack of fair and equally applied disciplinary practices, poorly staffed or designed language sensitive classes and/or status as a homeless child.
For children living in shelters, on the beach, or without stable housing, access to education is an essential necessity to overcome poverty. Children from families who are homeless or temporary without shelter face have difficulty producing records -- such as proof of residence -- normally required for enrollment. Stability of school placement is essential for many can be a stable force in a life filled with uncertainties.
Hawai‘i Appleseed Center represented three families who are homeless denied access to education and, on behalf of all homeless families statewide. Along with the ACLU of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Appleseed filed a class action lawsuit against the State of Hawai`i in U.S. District Court, seeking statewide injunctive relief to remove policies that violated federal law and to ensure that children who may be homeless have full, meaningful access to a public education. A final settlement agreement reaching in 2008 resolved the case, with the state agreeing to provide transportation and remove barriers to enrollment and attendance of children who are homeless. For more information and case pleadings are available here.
Immigrant children who come from homes where English is a second language sometimes have difficulties in understanding information or instructions in their local school that are provided almost exclusively in English. The test scores in Hawai`i's public schools for students who have limited proficiency in English indicate that their performance lags significantly behind those students who are language proficient. The Hawai`i Department of Education (DOE) is required by both federal and state law to design, staff and implement school curricula that assist language challenged students overcome the barriers that are inherent in a single language education programs. This responsibility is undertaken by DOE through the operation of its English Language Learner (ELL) curriculum.
Hawai‘i Appleseed has conducted research on the DOE's failures in the implementation of its ELL program in ensuring a quality based design of the program, proper hiring and training practices and sufficient funding to assist the program's successful implementation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA) operates a national program that provides full reimbursement for public and charter schools that provide breakfast, lunch or after school meals to low income children. While providing critical nourishment to hungry children, the federal funding also brings helps our local economy. Currently, federal funding for Hawaii's school meal program is $42,464,553 for the 2009-2010 school year. Hawai‘i Appleseed has conducted research on models from diverse locations across the country that have successfully increased the size of the food meals program, served more meals to eligible children and increased federal revenues that support the increased use of the program by children.
Research has shown that children who eat breakfast
- Experience improved cognitive function and perform better on standardized tests
- Experience better mental health, with reductions in behavioral problems
- Are less likely to be absent or tardy
- Visit the school nurse less frequently
- Eat more nutritious diets
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