by Ross Rammelmeyer
The Volcano School of Arts and Sciences (VSAS) is a decade old, tuition free, state financed, State of Hawaii Charter Public School, opens to all. The VSAS receives about ½ the annual State funding per student as do surrounding non charter public schools. Yet the students at VSAS consistently score higher on standard academic tests than do those students in surrounding public schools.
Most of the VSAS students attend classes in tents and WWII Quonset huts reached by a rutted dirt and cinder road. The school auditorium is a sheet of Vinyl stretched on large hoops and is open to the rainforest weather on both ends. The children’s playground is a former plantation equipment dump. Shards of metal continually work their way up underfoot where the children exercise and play at recess. The school is on leased land with high and annually increasing rental costs. The school’s lease rent is the second highest line item in the school budget. As the rent increases, the school is forced to decrease enrollment to make ends meet.
Almost a century ago citizens of Volcano gave another plot of land, designated as for school use, to the state (via the Territory). The state now leases that land back to the VSAS. The VSAS community has cobbled up enough money, in addition to paying their taxes to support State public schools, to pay for a s new school Plot Plan done by a registered AIA member Architect, and to generate the required Environmental Assessment, Archeological Study, Road Traffic Analysis zoning and Land Use documents and Flora and Fauna analysis, Flood Insurance Zone Map and studies of available water, telephone electricity and sewage disposal resources for the new school.
Meanwhile, the kids trudge down the dirt road to their rotting tents and leaking Quonset classrooms.
Meanwhile, with constant pleading by Volcano citizens, the elected State Legislature has twice appropriated $618,000 of State construction and improvement funds specifically directed to the VSAS. The Governor of the State Hawaii, exercising what amounts to line item veto, has arbitrarily, for two years, withheld these funds. Repeated pleas for their release have been ignored. Contra wise, in August of this year the governor ‘released’ $1.8 million in construction funds almost exclusively directed for school athletic facilities, including a new ‘press booth’ to cover school athletic events. Added administration offices and salaries and fringe benefits for more state employees were also added.
Meanwhile, the Hawaii County Fire Marshal has warned that the VSAS facilities face closing as being unsafe for occupancy by Volcano’s children.
The Volcano community now has been granted a charter to educate our children at a fraction of the cost expended on children at State Public Schools, has given the land to the State, cobbling up volunteered money, with $156,000 available to initiate a other than Third World School on the land specifically given to the State for a school, and requesting from our elected legislature the appropriate funds to build a safe and secure school for our children, only to have the effort arbitrarily strangled by our Governor.