Early learning bill expanding access to preschool passes final committee
A bill to expand access to preschool passed unanimously on Wednesday by House and Senate conferees.
HB961 increases early learning opportunities and financial assistance through the Preschool Open Doors program and the state’s Executive Office on Early Learning. The measure is a key component to the Ready Keiki initiative led by Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke to expand access to preschool for all Hawaiʻi three- and four-year-olds by 2032.
Along with HB961, $38.8 million was added for Preschool Open Doors in a final version of the state budget bill. The funding will allow Preschool Open Doors to expand their subsidy eligibility to include three-year-olds beginning August 2024.
Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke has been a strong supporter of the measure, working closely with early childcare and education advocates to increase financial assistance for families and expand early learning opportunities for Hawaiʻi’s youngest learners.
“Ready Keiki is a way to reimagine education in our state and expand access so that all local families have the opportunity to benefit from early learning,” said Luke.
Currently, there are over 9,000 underserved three- and four-year-olds in Hawaiʻi. Families and working parents wishing to enroll their children in public or private preschool will now have more program options and increased financial support.
Before voting on final passage by the committee, Rep. John Mizuno who chairs the House Committee on Human Services said, “HB961 is probably the biggest bill that we’re passing for the entire legislative session for 2023.”
HB961 CD1 will be up for a final vote on the floor in both House and Senate chambers before being transmitted to Gov. Josh Green for passage.