Maui News

House Mulls Early Learning Bill

February 19, 2020, 10:56 AM HST
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Photo courtesy: Hawaiʻi House of Representatives.

The House Committee on Lower & Higher Education and the Committee on Finance heard testimony today from groups and individuals in a joint hearing on HB 2543 HD 1.

The bill would expand early learning opportunities for 3 and 4 year old children across the state by increasing funding for early learning schools and expanding the number of school facilities in areas they are needed the most.

Higher & Lower Education Chair Justin H. Woodson this early education bill is part of a joint economic package introduced by the House and Senate, and supported by the Ige Administration to address Hawaiʻi’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, “ALICE: A Study of Financial Hardship in Hawaii.”

Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke said most of the testimony submitted on this bill is in support because families are in desperate need of more early education availability.

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Luke also noted that providing expanded early education can reduce the cycle of poverty for parents that cannot work because they must stay home to care for their young children. Subsequently, those children often do not get the early learning they need to become better educated citizens.

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The bill includes:

  • Requiring Department of Education (DOE) to adopt a standardized assessment model for all kindergarten students and requires the parents or guardians of public school kindergarten students to disclose information on the child’s prior child care program or prekindergarten attendance to determine areas with the highest need for prekindergarten and child care programs.
  • Expanding the Preschool Open Doors Program eligibility 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 also establishes the Preschool Open Doors Trust Fund with annual reporting regarding the revenues and expenditures of the fund.
  • Establishing a program in the Department of Human Services to award grants for preschools and to fund 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.
  • Establishing the Early Learning Coordinator position within the Office of the Governor.  The Early Learning Coordinator will have the responsibility of reaching 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.
  • Appropriating funds for the University of Hawaiʻi’s ʻImiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo to build classrooms for Hawaiian language immersion pre-kindergarten programs and appropriates funds for building early learning services classrooms on public library property.

Following today’s hearing, the committee members will review the testimony and return for decision making at 2 p.m. Feb. 25 in room 309.

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