East Hawaii News

Lawmakers Voice Support for Preschool Development Grants

September 22, 2015, 9:57 AM HST
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Calls for continued funding for the Preschool Development Grants Program came Monday from United States Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard following authored spending bills earlier this year by the House and Senate that would eliminate the grants. Under the spending bills, funding would be cut off from the grant’s last two years.

Senator Schatz says that children missing out on a preschool education will enter kindergarten lacking the preparation they need to be ready for school and lifelong success.

“The Preschool Development Grant has helped Hawai‘i expand access to high-quality preschool for hundreds of children who would otherwise miss out on the well-documented benefits of early education,” Senator Schatz said. “Funding for this grant will run out next year, which would stop the progress that has been made all across our state.

Funding will be a topic of the upcoming budget negotiations, according to Schatz, who said that “without funding in the next budget, we can expect more children to enter school unprepared and without the basic skills needed to succeed.”

On Monday, Kiran Ahuja, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, was on the Big Island and spent time at Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u Iki Public Charter School. During the trip, Ahuja learned more about the school’s Pūnana Leo infant toddler and preschool Hawaiian language early learning program. The learning program is using funds from a Preschool  Development Grant.

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Senator Hirono says over 700 Hawai’i preschoolers in the state would lose out on preschool education without restoring funding to the Preschool Development Grants program.

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“Quality early learning gives children from all backgrounds a foundation to start kindergarten on track and prepare for success in school and in life,” said Senator Hirono.

Earlier this year, the state was awarded a $2 million Preschool Development Grant, part of a four-year, $15 million plan to develop a state preschool system that would provide high-quality preschool to families who are below the 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line.

If funding is not cut, the state has plans to provide preschool to 900 children by 2018.

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“These grants help schools all across the state, like Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u Iki, as they work to expand high-quality, culturally-appropriate early education,” said Representative Gabbard. “By investing in early education, we are ensuring our keiki have access to the strong foundation and basic building blocks they need to start off their education on the right track.”

Hawai‘i’s planned preschool system includes service to several Big Island schools, including Kanu o ka ʻĀina New Century Public Charter School, Volcano School of Arts & Sciences Public Charter School, Nā Wai Ola Public Charter School, Ke Kula ‘O Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u Iki Laboratory Public Charter School, Hawai‘i Academy of Arts & Science Public Charter School, Kua O Ka Lā New Century Public Charter School, Innovations Public Charter School, Kona Pacific Public Charter School, Laupāhoehoe Community Public Charter School, Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo Public Charter School, and Connections Public Charter School.

Seven additional schools from across the state are also included.

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