Hawaii’s Plan For Dramatic Hike In Pre-K Slots for Low-Income Kids Moves Forward
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Open Doors currently prioritizes enrollment for four-year-olds who are one year away from starting kindergarten. However, HB 961 now mandates that three-year-olds be given priority as well. The new state budget includes nearly $39 million to expand the Open Doors program, which was finalized by lawmakers last week.
Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, who aims for Hawaii to provide universal access to preschool over the next ten years, states that the additional funding will increase the state subsidy for the Open Doors program from $12 million to $50 million per year.
"This increase in funding will greatly benefit more families," she said. Supporters of the program hope that the extra state funding will also make the program eligible for additional federal funding. Their goal is to increase the number of young children participating from approximately 1,400 per year to around 4,000.
Experts assert that preschool attendance better prepares young children for kindergarten compared to those who do not attend. Preschool is especially beneficial for disadvantaged children and those from low-income families. Luke mentioned that about half of Hawaiis young children do not have access to preschool due to financial constraints. Therefore, the increased funding will help address this unmet need in the state.
The subsidies for preschools serving children in the Open Doors program will also see an increase, going from an average of $900 to $1,500 per child per month.
The bill now moves forward for final votes in both the House and the Senate.
Representative Mizuno believes that it may take several years for the larger community to fully comprehend the importance of this bill. He states, "This bill is likely the most significant for the 2023 session. I see this as a victory and an investment in our people and economy."
This article was originally published on Civil Beat.
Civil Beats coverage of education is made possible by a grant from Chamberlin Family Philanthropy.
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