Skip Navigation
The Library of Congress - Thomas
United States Senate




As a former teacher, vice principal, and principal, Senator Akaka has tirelessly worked to strengthen education to maximize opportunity and achievement for all in Hawaii and across the United States.

No Child Left Behind Act.  Senator Akaka anticipated far-reaching impacts of sweeping elementary and secondary education reform resulting from the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act (P.L. 107-110).  He launched a series of visits to elementary, middle, and high schools in Hawaii to gather feedback about the new law from students, teachers, and school administrators, in order to facilitate a dialogue with and response from the U.S. Department of Education. He continues to visit schools and work to attain additional resources and flexibilities that schools and administrators need to fully comply with the No Child Left Behind Act.  Some of the specific issues include “highly qualified” requirements for teachers and paraprofessionals, high-stakes assessments, calculation of Adequate Yearly Progress, and challenges faced by Limited English Proficient students, such as Marshallese, Micronesian, and Palauan migrants.

In March, 2006, Senator Akaka offered an S.Amdt. 3071 to S.Con.Res. 83, the FY 2007 Budget Resolution, to restore $3 billion in Title I education funding for disadvantaged students, aiming to make up for the historical funding shortfall since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of $43.7 billion.  The amendment nearly passed by a vote of 49 to 51.  It was supported by groups like the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers.

Teacher Acculturation.  Incorporating his substantial education experience as a former teacher and principal, and recognizing challenges presented by today’s largely monocultural teaching forces teaching multicultural student bodies, Senator Akaka introduced legislation to help boost teacher abilities both in terms of content knowledge and classroom pedagogies.  S. 1521, the Teacher Acculturation Act of 2005, proposes three new demonstration grant programs for pre-service and in-service teacher training and the establishment of centers of multicultural excellence, toward promoting a greater understanding of the problems facing teachers in multicultural classroom settings and methods to address them.  Professional teaching organizations and leading multicultural education academic experts provided input on this legislation, and it is supported by the National Association for Multicultural Education and College of Education at the University of Hawaii.

Economic and Personal Finance Education.  Senator Akaka has also been proactive toward reducing financial and economic illiteracy through initiatives for the K-12 and higher education population (see Economic and Financial Literacy page) to ensure that they have the tools they need to make better money management decisions, grounded in basic economic concepts.

Foreign Language Coordination.  Senator Akaka has taken a leadership role in foreign language education in the introduction of S. 1089, the National Foreign Language Coordination Act of 2005.  The measure would establish a National Foreign Language Coordination Council and a National Language Director, to be appointed by the President, to develop and implement a national foreign language strategy.  The bill includes heads of certain federal agencies as members of the Council.

The genesis of this legislation is a report entitled, “A Call to Action for National Foreign Language Capabilities,” issued by the National Language Conference held in June 2004 under the auspices of the Department of Defense, and attended by government, industry, academia, education, and language association representatives.  A version of the bill was included in the FY 2006 Department of Defense authorization bill as passed by the Senate, but, unfortunately, was removed in conference with the House of Representatives.  Senator Akaka will continue to work to enact this important measure.

STEM and Foreign Language Education.  Senators Akaka and Richard Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the Homeland Security Education Act, S. 2450, to increase educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and foreign languages for all students, and ensure that the students of today are prepared to meet the global challenges of the future.  The bill would start the learning of foreign languages at an early age, increase the number of foreign language teachers and provide them with training and professional development programs, award scholarships to students who study foreign languages in college, and establish college courses that combine the teaching of science and technology in foreign languages.  He is working to include provisions from S. 2450 in American competitiveness initiatives that are moving through the Congress.

College Readiness.  Senator Akaka joined Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and others in introducing the College Pathway Act, S. 2337.  Through grant assistance, this bill seeks to provide resources for states to establish or support existing P-16, or as in Hawaii’s case P-20 commissions, which is a dialogue between a state's early childhood, K through 12, higher education, and business communities to ensure students amass the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college.  Such commissions consist of representatives of the early childhood, and higher education communities, the governor's office, appropriate state legislators, members of the business community and other interested stakeholders. By promoting coordination, among all education levels, states will better align education systems, helping to ensure that all students are prepared to successfully engage in and complete postsecondary level course work.  Hawaii educators expressed their enthusiastic support of this bill, including Patricia Hamamoto, Superintendent of the Hawaii Department of Education; University of Hawaii Interim President David McClain; and Elisabeth Chun, Executive Director of Good Beginnings Alliance.

Back to top Back to top