State legislature passes bill with $200 million for expanding preschool access
The Hawaiʻi State Legislature passed six bills that invest $220 million in education, with $200 million appropriated for the goal of expanding preschool access to all 3- and 4-year olds by 2032.
The $220 million is in addition to the $2.4 billion in the Department of Education’s most recent budget. The bills were sent to Gov. David Ige for his consideration.
The biggest chunk of the additional funding is for the education portion of HB 2000. It appropriates $200 million to the School Facilities Authority to expand access to pre-kindergarten for eligible children. The funds may be used to construct new school facilities; renovate, improve and expand existing school facilities to increase pre-kindergarten student capacity; and any other costs to increase pre-kindergarten student capacity within the state.
In 2020, the legislature passed Act 46, which created a goal to expand preschool access to all 3- and 4-year olds by 2032. But there were two issues with meeting that goal: lack of preschool facilities and lack of a qualified workforce.
“Making big change such as providing preschool access for 3- and 4-year old keiki takes time,” said Rep. Justin Woodson, Chair of the House Committee on Education. “Last year, we adopted HB 1362 to create a stipend program for UH students to become early childhood educators. This year, HB 2000 provides an appropriation of $200 million to create appropriate spaces for these keiki to learn effectively. This investment lays the foundation for Hawaii’s children to succeed.”
The other 2022 bills the legislature passed that provide additional educational funding:
- SB 2821. Relating to menstrual equality, it requires the Department of Education to provide menstrual products free of charge to all students on all public school campuses.
Chronic absenteeism is one of the most powerful predictors of student success or failure. It is a priority for Hawaiʻi public schools to minimize or eliminate chronic absenteeism.
The inability to adequately manage menstruation, specifically the lack of access to menstrual products in schools, limits full participation in school, contributes to higher rates of school absenteeism and missed activities, and negatively impacts a student’s ability to learn.
The 2021 study of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women and Mai Movement Hawaiʻi reported that 42% of respondents missed class or left school because the respondents did not have access to menstrual products, and nearly 22% of respondents missed school entirely. Of those who missed school entirely, nearly 12% missed three to five school days, and 6% missed six to 10 school days in an academic year.
- SB 2826: Relating to Education, it appropriates $2.6 million to establish a career development success program to provide financial incentives for participating public high schools and public charter schools to encourage students in grades 9 through 12 to enroll in and successfully complete qualified industry-credential programs.
This bill will help fill shortages of qualified credentialed workers in various sectors, including health, education, air travel, agriculture and technology. In the current job market, 65% of available positions require post-secondary credentials. Full-time employees with industry credentials earn more than their un-credentialed counterparts.
- SB 2184, Relating to digital learning, it appropriates $7 million to create and staff the digital learning center. The COVID-19 pandemic challenged the Department of Education to adopted digital learning, which has the potential to promote equitable delivery of high-quality educational offerings to students across the state.
- SB 2862: Relating to Education, it appropriates an additional $10 million to provide air conditioning for schools. The legislature initially invested $100 million in heat abatement upgrades in 2016 (Act 47). This resulted in more than 1,300 public classrooms being cooled. More than 5,000 classrooms still require heat abatement improvements.
- SB 2819: Relating to Teacher Compensation, it will assist with recruitment and retention of teachers by fixing inequities in the salary schedules.