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Hawaii unveils 'game-changing' plan to make preschool available to all 3-and-4-year-olds

Only half of Hawaii's 3 and 4-year-olds attend preschool.

Hawaii unveils 'game-changing' plan to make preschool available to all 3-and-4-year-olds
Image Source: Getty Images/SDI Productions

Pre-school education is extremely important for children across the world. It shapes the formative years of a child's life and prepares them for the formal education system. Hawaii proposed a strategy on Tuesday to make preschool available to all 3-and-4-year-olds by 2032. This strategy, on implementation, would place Hawaii in a select club of states that provide pre-kindergarten education to the majority of their children, reports the Associated Press


For decades, Hawaii's leaders have sought universal pre-K without much success. According to a recent estimate, the state is progressing so slowly in this regard that it would take 47 years to create all of Hawaii's public preschool capacity. The state anticipates the need for 465 more classrooms to accommodate all kids, and it will use $200 million in funding authorized by the Legislature last year to construct preschool classrooms.

Only half of Hawaii's 35,000 3 and 4-year-olds attend preschool, according to Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, who has been tasked by Governor Josh Green to lead the state's efforts.  The state is especially targeting a demographic of 9,200 children whose parents wish to send them to preschool but are unable to do so. Senate President Ron Kouchi said, "It’s clear about the difference in educational outcomes between a child who goes to pre-K and one that doesn’t." He added, "To be able to help our educational outcomes while keeping more money into the working families' pockets to take care of all of their needs is a real critical component." 



According to G.G. Weisenfeld, senior early childhood education policy specialist at Rutgers University's National Institute for Early Education Research, Hawaii is already well-known for its excellent quality of preschool education. Its current publicly supported preschool program ranks among just five programs nationwide that fulfill all ten minimum quality requirements established by its research center.


Weisenfeld, who served as the head of Hawaii's Executive Office on Early Learning from 2013 to 2014, praised Lt. Gov. Luke for putting the plan together. She said, "One of the hardest things to make it happen is political will. I think Alabama has been so successful because of the leadership of the governor. I think that’s happening in Hawaii. I think Sylvia Luke has definitely taken this on and she’s incredibly smart and will make it happen."

According to Angela Thomas, the early childhood resource coordinator for Hawaii County, the state's strategy for preschool education is "game-changing" as kindergarten instructors build on children's early exposure to language and reading. "Our kids don’t do very well in reading in third grade. Our scores are not that great islandwide. And so having more early childhood opportunities for children is going to be really exciting," she added. Jacqueline Ornellas, a principal at Lincoln Elementary School in Honolulu, shared that one of her school's classrooms will be renovated to accommodate younger children. She is excited about this step towards making kids more successful with quality and affordable pre-schooling for all. 

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