Bill Raises Questions For Hawaii's CUs

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The Hawaii state legislature recently introduced a bill that would create a tuition reimbursement program for teachers. The bill calls for the program to be administered in part by a "designated federal credit union," though a spokesman at the Hawaii CU League said many details still must be fleshed out.

The "Hawaii educator incentive program" would reimburse graduates of a state-approved teacher education program for tuition, textbooks and other educational materials. To qualify, graduates must teach in the Hawaii public school system for a minimum of three consecutive years. The bill would create a trust fund that would be administered by an FCU with "existing services for teachers."

Michael Leach, legislative officer for the Hawaii Credit Union League, said the idea of an educator incentive program has been around for about three years, but previous bills on this subject have stalled due to a lack of funding.

"We have facilitated discussions with credit unions, and the teachers union has talked informally with a large credit union here, but no credit union has committed to this because it is not clear what they will be asked to do," he said. "We are encouraged, because this is one of the first educational initiatives that mention credit unions, but we have not been able to get a handle on the specifics."

"We don't have enough information to go to NCUA, because the regulators will want to know more," he added.

Part of the problem, Leach explained, is there is no credit union with a statewide charter in Hawaii at this time. Also, there is a question of which CU would want to participate in the program, as it is not a moneymaker. "The state would have to provide funding for it, but there is no appropriation in the bill," he said.

The bill, known as Senate Bill 1071, was introduced in the Hawaii Senate on Jan. 26. As of press time, it was not scheduled for a hearing.

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