Reviewers needed for Native Hawaiian federal education grants program

  • Contributed

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz

LIHU‘E — The Native Hawaiian Education Council has put out an urgent call for qualified community members to serve as peer reviewers to assess applications for upcoming federal grant opportunities as part of the Native Hawaiian Education Program.

“Native Hawaiians can play a key role in this critical decision-making process for federal funding to support education,” said NHEC Executive Director Elena Farden.

“About $85 million in federal funding is at risk of being decided for us rather than by us without a sufficient number of qualified grant application peer reviewers.”

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, also known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, and it includes an unprecedented $85 million for the NHEP, a discresionary grant that funds community-based organizations serving students, teachers and families across the state.

The NHEP’s purpose is to develop innovative education programs to assist Native Hawaiians and to supplement and expand programs and authorities in the area of education.

Peer reviewers are being sought from various backgrounds and professions, including teachers and principals at all grade levels, college and university educators, researchers and evaluators, social entrepreneurs, grant-makers, grant managers and others with expertise in Native Hawaiian education, language and culture.

Preference will be made for an applicant who meets one or more of the following criteria:

w Is of Native Hawaiian descent;

w Has experience in serving the interests of Native Hawaiians, including expertise in education, language, culture and/or program development for Native Hawaiians;

w Has completed coursework that focuses on the history of Native Hawaiians, the Hawaiian language and/or Hawaiian culture.

Further information and instructions on how to apply to be a peer reviewer can be found at the U.S. Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education website, The deadline to apply to serve as a peer reviewer is May 22.

“Native Hawaiian education programs have been models for indigenous leaning around the world,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

“This $85 million in new federal funding will make sure they have the resources they need to stay open, educate more students and support local communities,” said Schatz, who secured the funding as chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“I encourage members of the Native Hawaiian community to join these efforts and work to ensure that the new COVID-19 relief funds are awarded to the best NHEP grant proposals.”

According to a recent study, Native Hawaiians prioritize education as essential in Hawai‘i’s post-COVID economic future.

The global pandemic’s impact exacerbated long-standing disparities in student proficiency, student achievement, school quality and funding, educational costs, access, teacher support and community partnerships.

The funds for NHEP are intended to help address immediate needs and support for Native Hawaiian education while programs and schools continue to provide services for students, teachers and families.

“Our keiki and communities rely greatly on programs funded by the Native Hawaiian Education Program, which has its roots in early efforts by Dan Inouye, Pinky Thompson and many others who sought to ensure access to critically-needed resources and support for the educational well-being of our kanaka,” said Shawn Kana‘iaupuni, president and CEO of Partners in Development.

“It makes a huge difference to have local representatives to review and provide context to other reviewers who may know very little about our communites.”

Assuring a sufficient number of peer reviewers is the first step in distributing and spending the full $85 million.

“These much-needed funds will enable Native Hawaiian education programs to rapidly recover from impacts of the pandemic,” said Farden. “We know that members of our lahui understand the educational needs of our people best,” she said.

“It’s vital that our community answer the kahea to serve as peer reviewers.”


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