A bill establishing the Executive Office of Early Learning (EOEL) was enacted by Governor Neil Abercrombie today. The measure, Senate Bill 2545, creates the EOEL with an appointed cabinet-level director who the Governor named at the bill signing ceremony. Terry Lock, the current State Early Childhood Coordinator, will head the EOEL.
"One of the goals of my administration was to ensure that there was a collaborative effort to see to it that every young child in Hawai'i has access to high quality preschool," stated Governor Abercrombie. "Investing in the next generation is the wisest decision that we can make as a people, and this measure makes such an investment."
SB 2545 does the following:
establishes the Executive Office on Early Learning;
establishes the Early Learning Advisory Board (ELAB) to replace the Early Learning Council;
repeals junior kindergarten programs at the end of the 2013-2014 school year; and
requires that students, in order to enter kindergarten, be at least five years of age on July 31 of the same year (beginning with the 2014-2015 school year).
With the signing of this bill, Hawaiꞌi joins the rest of the nation, where students start kindergarten at age 5. The bill also states that the EOEL will be responsible for developing an implementation plan for an early learning program, targeting late born five year olds and 4 year olds. The plan is due to the Legislature 20 days prior to the start of the 2013 legislative session. The vision is to have a universal network of child care and preschool support for every 4 year old in the State.
"The Governor and the Legislature clearly recognizes that high quality early learning programs that are affordable and accessible for all children are critically important for ensuring the success of Hawai'i's keiki," Ms. Lock stated. "I look forward to continuing on the path that Governor Abercrombie has put forward in the expansion of a public-private comprehensive early childhood system for children."
One of the goals of EOEL is to ensure that government services among Departments of Health, Human Services, Education, Judiciary and other agencies are coordinated, well implemented, continuously improved, and consistently meeting needs. The ELAB, with five more members than the original 14-member Council, will advise the Office on how best to meet the educational and developmental needs of young children, prenatal to age 5, and how to improve the quality, availability, and coordination of early childhood programs.
The successful passage of SB 2545 was largely due to the collaborative efforts between Senate Education Chair Jill Tokuda, House Education Chair Roy Takumi, the Governor's Office, the Early Learning Council and many advocates. The Governor used SB 2545 as the vehicle to request start-up funding of $300,000 for this new EOEL.
For the past year, Ms. Lock was the State Early Childhood Coordinator in the Office of the Governor. With over 36 years of experience in field of early childhood education, Ms. Lock has taught in and managed early childhood programs serving prenatal to 8 years old; initiated parent support groups; taught courses at the university and community college levels; coordinated family literacy services for parents and their preschoolers; and has been an advocate for early childhood education at the county, state and national levels. Ms. Lock served as the Maui County Early Childhood Resource Coordinator, a National Head Start Fellow, and as the Director of the Kamehameha Schools Community-Based Early Childhood Education Division. She has a bachelor's degree in Human Development from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and a master's degree in Human Development with specialization in Parent/Community Work and Early Childhood Education from Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, Calif.