AG: Grant to private school is unconstitutional
HONOLULU (AP) — The governor’s office is reviewing a $1.5 million state grant to a private Roman Catholic school after an opinion from Hawaii’s attorney general concluded it was unconstitutional.
The Legislature approved the grant to Damien Memorial School, a private school in Honolulu.
Carolyn Golojuch, an advocate for marriage equality, questioned the legality of the grant in an Aug. 28 email to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/162rLby ).
Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, D-Kalihi Valley-Moanalua-Halawa, asked for the legal opinion.
Randall S. Nishiyama, deputy attorney general, said in a Sept. 3 memo to Kim that the grant violates a section of the state constitution that “prohibits public funds from being appropriated for the support or benefit of any sectarian or nonsectarian private educational institution.”
The president of the school, Bernard Ho, said Damien officials were reviewing the opinion and the potential grant loss.
“We really haven’t discussed it internally yet,” Ho said.
Damien is attempting to raise $12 million for its campus master plan. School officials want to upgrade or build new classrooms, offices, athletic facilities and a conference room.
The House and Senate unanimously approved the budget.
State agencies review grants-in-aid and they can be withheld by the governor’s office if deemed inappropriate.