Hawaii Association of Independent Schools

Licensing Overview


Until June of 1995, private schools in Hawaii were licensed by the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) in accordance with procedures given by Hawaii Administrative Rules Title 8, Department of Education, Chapter 100, August 1988 (known as “Rule 100”). In 1993, the Legislature began to explore the possibility of transferring this and other responsibilities related to Hawaii’s private schools from the DOE to another group, in order to allow the DOE to focus its resources on the needs of the public schools. To that end, House Bill #1819 and Senate Bill #995 were drafted and eventually became Act 188, which Governor Benjamin Cayetano signed into law on June 16, 1995.
Act 188 repealed the law that gave the DOE responsibility for both licensing private schools and certifying private school teachers and led to the establishment of a task force responsible for the development of a plan for private school self-regulation. This task force was composed of private school administrators representing all sectors of Hawaii’s private school community, and its recommendations resulted in:
  1. The formation of a new Hawaii Council of Private Schools whose purpose would be to implement the provisions of the plan for private school self-governing, and
  2. The development and publication of specific standards and procedures, for the licensure and re-licensure of private schools.
Act 188 took effect in 1998 in the form of a memorandum of agreement between DOE and HAIS that recognized HCPS as the official entity for the licensing of all private schools in Hawaii and ensuring that transcripts and credits earned at HCPS-licensed schools would continue to be recognized and accepted as valid for transfer to other educational institutions.

Act 227

Although licensure of private schools had been mandatory when performed by the DOE, Act 188 did not specifically state that licensing was mandatory and, as a result, licensure was considered to be optional once HCPS took responsibility for it.  During the 2019 Legislative Session, the Senate/House Conference Committee passed SB 980, which was  written into law as ACT 227,

on July 2, 2019, and clarified that all private schools, both non-profit and for-profit, must be licensed by HCPS and/or accredited by a nationally-recognized accrediting agency. Act 227 will become effective on July 1, 2020, which provides schools a year to comply with licensure.

The primary change in the law is in how a private school is defined. The final paragraph of Act 227 states:

"As used in this section, "private school" means an educational institution that teaches students in any grade from kindergarten through grade twelve and that is licensed or accredited by the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, Hawaii Council of Private Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Western Catholic Educational Association, Association of Christian Schools International, or a similarly recognized entity that meets or exceeds the standards set by the aforementioned entities."


Thus, under current Hawai'i state law, any child between the ages of 5 and 18 who is not enrolled in either a public school or a private school that meets the afore-mentioned criteria will be considered truant. In other words, students attending a private school that provides any part of a kindergarten through 12th grade program that is not licensed or accredited by one of the above-mentioned agencies will be considered truant and may be referred to Family Court.


The State of Hawaii's compulsory attendance law (Hawaii Revised Statutes 302A-1132) can be viewed here. 

Why is Licensing Important?

Licensing of elementary and secondary educational institutions is important because it provides an independent, third-party assessment of a school’s safety, sustainability and program quality.


About 140 private and parochial schools currently are registered in Hawai‘i. HAIS licenses about 120 of them through its subsidiary, the Hawai‘i Council of Private Schools (HCPS). At least once every three years, educators from other licensed schools visit campuses to make sure the school’s fire safety, health department certificates, financial records, academic programs and certificates of occupancy are in order and up to date. The process helps to determine if the school provides a safe, secure and healthy learning environment and has a documented curriculum with faculty qualified to present that curriculum.

If schools choose to be accredited, the licensing process is usually part of the accreditation process. Licensing and accreditation together help ensure parents and students that their school will be safe, secure and sustainable.

Most colleges and universities will not take transcripts from unlicensed schools.

Hawai'i Council of Private Schools

Standards for licensure and procedures regulating the license approval process have been developed by HCPS to ensure that all licensed private schools in Hawaii are of a certain level of quality. These standards apply to all private schools seeking licensure or re-licensure, regardless of whether these institutions are also accredited by an established accrediting body.
It is important to note that these standards are used only to determine whether a school should be granted a license to operate and should not be confused with the standards required for accreditation, which provide assurance of an even higher level of quality than licensure and are evidence that a school improvement plan is in place.
For information on how to begin steps toward the possible licensure of a school by the Hawaii Council of Private Schools, please refer to the HCPS Manual: Standards and Procedures for the Approval of Hawaii Private Schools.
Please contact Kelley Rahn for more information.
search login