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Education coalition unites reform backers

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A new coalition of educators, parents, advocates and policymakers launched an initiative yesterday to a provide a strong and united voice for public education reform in the islands.

HE’E, or the Hui for Excellence in Education, is composed of more than 20 parent, child advocacy and other involved groups, including Hawaii Education Matters, an organization of parents formed during teacher furloughs last school year, and P-20 Partnerships for Education. Also on board are several Department of Education offices.

HE’E was launched with support from the Learning Coalition.

Full-time Director Cheri Nakamura said HE’E wants to support schools and communities and serve as a bridge to policymakers and the DOE. Among the coalition’s priorities: enhancing family engagement in schools, influencing public policy on education, matching school needs with community resources and collaborating to meet the basic needs of every student.

Kathy Bryant, the group’s communication coordinator, said the coalition is seeking more members, new funding and ways to support new education reform efforts under way.

She said the coalition is designed to bring a stronger voice to education issues.

"The coalition’s diversity in terms of composition is really powerful," Bryant said.

At an inaugural gathering at the state Capitol yesterday, HE’E coalition members joined DOE officials and lawmakers to talk about big goals — and how they can work together to reach them.

HE’E members said the coalition is unique because of its broad membership.

"The more resources we have, the better," said Wayne Yoshino, a school liaison with the Army.

Yoshino said he works with Army families and students in many capacities but wants to improve services, link up with other groups and get the concerns of the people he helps heard.

Waimanalo parent Fuamaila Soa said he attended several of the coalition’s early startup meetings and was happy with the dialogue he found.

"It’s something new," he said, adding he hopes the coalition is able to spur community engagement to tackle big education problems.


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