Landmark measure is part of joint legislative package to support working familiesHonolulu, Hawaiʻi –The House Committee on Lower & Higher Education and the House Finance Committee today amended and passed to expand early learning opportunities for 3 and 4 year old children across the state. The bill now moves to the full House for a vote.
"Over the course of the last year we have been working on this bill as a cost of living measure to address the lack of available early learning centers across the state," said Representative Justin H. Woodson. "Today we are making several amendments and adjustments to this bill, and I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard to pass this measure because it will greatly benefit our keiki and our working families."
The bill requires the parents or guardians of public school kindergarten students to the disclose information on the child's prior child care program or prekindergarten attendance, if any, for the purpose of determining areas with the highest need for prekindergarten and child care programs. It also requires the Department of Education to assess kindergarten students, establishes the preschool open doors trust fund and requires annual reporting. It expands Preschool Open Doors Programeligibility from 4-year-old children to all children who are 3 to 4 years old or will not be at least five years old on or before July 31 of the current school year. It requires annual reporting regarding the revenues and expenditures of the early learning special fund and establishes a program for Department of Human Services to award grants for preschools. The bill appropriates funds and authorizes positions for the preschool open doors program, appropriates funds for the Department of Human Services to expand its information technology system for the purpose of managing information on prekindergarten attendance and child care need and to contract for and operate preschool and child care programs. It establishes an Early Learning Coordinator position within the office of the Governor. It also establishes the goal of providing all children who are 3 to 4 years old, or will not be at least five years old on or before July 31 of the current school year, with enrollment in a preschool program by the year 2030 and assigns that responsibility to the Early Learning Coordinator. The bill appropriates funds to the ʻImiloa Astronomy Center for building classrooms for Hawaiian language immersion pre-kindergarten programs and appropriates funds for building early learning services classrooms on public library property.
This early education bill is part of a ʻi's cost of living obstacles. The joint working class economic package is designed to tackle the issues highlighted in the Aloha United Way sponsored report, introduced by the House and Senate, and supported by the Ige Administration to address Hawai
Representative Sylvia Luke noted that among more than 100 pages of testimony only two testifiers did not support the bills. Luke said this shows the great need and support for expanding early learning opportunities for our children.
"This bill provides an overlay of our vision that within 10 years to provide all children with access to early learning," Luke said. "It's not as easy as people think it is. It's about providing full access and the ability of working families to have their child ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. This is a huge task and we have relied on you folks for your thoughtful advice and support to get this bill where it is today."
Business, community and nonprofit educational groups have been adamant in their support for this measure.
“As a network of partners that support the health, safety and learning of our youngest keiki, we are excited about the potential expansion of child care and early learning programs for three and four-year olds," said Kerrie Urosevich, Lead for Network Design and Innovation at Hawai`i Early Childhood Action Strategy. "Over several decades, early childhood partners have worked diligently to elevate the importance of access to affordable and high-quality child care and early learning opportunities, which strengthen family income and support early cognitive, physical and social development. We are deeply grateful for the proposed financial commitments by the legislature, philanthropy and business sectors to make it happen. The implementation of this 10-year vision will only be successful if we leverage the early childhood eco-system together, with leaders from programs, philanthropy, business, the legislature, state departments and families themselves. There is no more important job than the one that builds the brains and hearts of our youngest in our society. Creating viable plans that will ensure early childhood providers are able to make a living wage in Hawai`i is imperative for the success of the expansion and should be prioritized. The economic stimulus package, of which HB2543 is a part, would begin to put families on the path toward economic stability and begin to create the needed foundations for young keiki and families to thrive.”