Thursday, January 3, 2008

Early Childhood Education Task Force presents "Keiki First"

The Early Childhood Education Task Force provided the House and Senate education committees with an update on their progress, including a new name for their project, "Keiki First". It is a tremendous undertaking, with the goal being to serve 80% of Hawaii's pre-school children in getting them ready for kindergarten. At present, 51% of Hawaii keiki are physically ready for school and only 17% are prepared with the proper literacy skills. The benchmark goal is to increase overall class readiness to 75%.

That goal comes at a significant price tag. With a ramp up period of 10 years, the task force presented a cost summary that ends with spending $170 million per year for early childhood education.

Photo: Task Force member Dee Jay Mailer, CEO of Kamehameha Schools, provides information to Senators Mike Gabbard, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Norman Sakamoto, and Rep. Lyla Berg.

Rep. Lyla Berg, vice chair of the House Education Committee praised the KSBE model which focuses on improving the cultural, social and economic fabric of our community by better preparing our children for school. She raised the legislature's concern, however, that the public funds that may be used to pay for the program will be spent by private providers, and that the task force must address the accountability of those providers. Senator Norman Sakamoto, chair of the Senate Education Committee, suggested that if a change to the state constitution is needed to implement early childhood programs, the task force should be working with the legislature to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot for the 2008 election. He said we can't count on a constitutional convention in the next few years.

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