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Charter Schools in Hawai‘i

August 23, 2012
Rep. George Fontaine (R HD-11) - Kihei, Wailea, Makena , The Maui Weekly

This month, I would like to talk about charter schools in Hawai'i. There has been some misunderstanding about what a charter school is. First of all, charter schools are not private schools; they are public schools. In addition, there is no cost involved when enrolling your children into a charter school. Charter schools are funded by the State of Hawai'i and they operate under contract with the State Public Charter School Commission (PCSC).

There are currently 32 charter schools in Hawai'i, with close to 10,000 students in attendance. Charter schools in Hawai'i can either be created as new startup schools or existing public schools can be converted into charter schools.

At this writing, the newest charter school will be Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School.

Article Photos

George Fontaine Representing You
Rep. George Fontaine (R HD-11)
Kīhei, Wailea, Mākena

Charter schools are performing well academically. Three of the top 10 high schools in Hawai'i are charter schools, as ranked in U.S. News and World Report (2012).

Some people think that charter schools in Hawai'i are autonomous and independent of the state Board of Education. This is not the case. According to the Charter School Administrative Office (, "The Board of Education (BOE) oversees both the Department of Education (DOE) and the State Public Charter School Commission (PCSC)."

This year, the Legislature passed Act 130 to strengthen charter schools in Hawai'i. The act also created the new state PCSC, which authorizes charter schools in Hawai'i. You can find the details of how charter schools function within the State of Hawai'i in section 3 of Act 130, 2012 Session Laws of Hawai'i. If you are interested in starting a charter school in your district, contact the PCSC at (808) 721-8615 or (808) 586-3775.

Charter schools began in our state in 1994 when Act 272 was passed by the Hawai'i State Legislature. The first two charter schools in Hawai'i are Wai'alae Elementary School (1995) and Lanikai Elementary School (1996).

One of the things that you will notice when you look at the 32 charter schools in Hawai'i is that they are all very unique. Schools may focus on different areas, such as Hawaiian culture, arts and science, technology and other specialties. In my district, there is Kihei Charter School, which includes grades K through 12.

If you are a parent of a student in grades K through 12, and you are considering sending your child to a charter school, go to for a list of the 32 charter schools in Hawai'i.

Finally, I want to say that charter schools offer a win-win situation for K through 12 students in the State of Hawai'i. As public schools funded by your taxpayer dollars, charter schools offer another choice for parents and students alike. While charter schools are not necessarily for every family, they certainly offer an important and innovative choice by offering student-centered learning in our public education system.

The enthusiasm I see from students, teachers and administrators in our charter schools tells me that they will continue to play an important role by educating and preparing our keiki for future success.

If you need to contact me with any issues or concerns regarding charter schools in Hawai'i, please call my office at (808) 586-8525 or email

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