Statewide plan unveiled for universal preschool, 80 new classrooms by next year
January 17, 2023, 2:26 PM HST
* Updated January 17, 2:56 PM
Hawaiʻi Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke during a news conference today announced a plan for universal preschool where 80 new classrooms statewide would be ready by next year.
Ready Keiki, a public-private partnership led by Luke, would eventually have 465 Pre-K classrooms for 3- and 4-year-old students by year 2032, with 20 pupils per class.
State leaders touted the project as one that will prepare children for educational success, while saving money for families who need their kids to have a safe space during working hours.
“The data is crystal clear: Those who attend a high-quality early learning (city) are more likely to succeed in primary school and beyond,” Maui Rep. Justin Woodson, state House education chairperson, said during the O’ahu news conference. “This leads to healthier communities.”
O’ahu Sen. Michelle N. Kidani, state Senate education chairperson, said many young families leave the islands because they can’t afford to have their children in preschool or daycare.
Luke said the cost of a classroom is about $170,000. If the state can build out all 80 classrooms by next August, it will cost about $40 million.
Eventually, though, the goal is to have 465 preschool classrooms by 2032.
Ready Keiki classrooms would take shape in a variety of different forms, according to program information.
More than 60 new preschool classrooms would be included on existing state Department of Education school campuses; 30 new classrooms could be created at charter schools; Preschool Open Doors expansion could add around 1,400 additional seats to existing private providers; and preschool classrooms would be added to state libraries, University of Hawaiʻi campuses and public-private land purchases.
Act 46 in 2020 established the goal to provide all keiki ages 3 to 4 with access to Pre-K enrollment by 2032. Act 257 in 2022 appropriated $200 million to expand access to Pre-K by building new school facilities and renovating existing ones to increase preschool capacity.
Also, the state would request $40 million to expand the federal program, Preschool Open Doors, to include 3-year-olds and increase the subsidy per child. The state-administered program serves more than 750 children statewide by providing subsidies to eligible families to help pay preschool tuition.