HONOLULU (KHON2) — A push to elevate athletics within the Hawaii Department of Education system is moving through the state legislature. The purpose of the new bill is to transform existing sports from extracurricular to become part of the school curriculum.

“It shortchanges student athletes to really not prioritize athletics at a same level we do with the rest of the curriculum, because it is so important in shaping the young people that we want in our society,” said Rep. Dale Kobayashi (D) Manoa, Punahou, University, Moillili.

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Former Kaimuki football head coach David Tautofi has spearheaded the effort.

“Having to make practice times, practices on the weekends, managing time with their homework assignments, with everything these guys are expected to do and the least we can do is give these credits to the kids,” said David Tautofi, former Kaimuki head football coach.

While the bill has gained strong support from many, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association opposes the measure. It says this would impact the ability of a coach to select their team, as well as eligibility and transfer rules.

“If the intent of this bill is to make sports more important and to seem more important somehow I totally agree with that concept, but I’m not sure if writing it as a co-curricular activity justifies and accomplishes that,” said Raymond Fujino, Executive Director of the Oahu Interscholastic Association.

The DOE also has its reservations, defining the differences between extracurricular and co-curricular. The DOE says sports as they stand now are focused on winning and competition. Sports as co-curricular would be focused on participation and having fun with a student’s performance contributing to a grade.

“We would have to determine where it would fit and if there’s a needed course, but it might be an elective,” said Teri Ushijima, Department of Education Interim Assistant Superintendent.

Rep. Kobayashi says he appreciates both sides and the focus of this bill is to benefit Hawaii’s keiki.

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“It generates a lot of ideas on what we can do going forward to help the children of Hawaii be all they can be,” said Rep. Kobayashi.

The Senate will hold a public hearing on the bill Friday.