Gov. Neil Abercrombie's Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL) and the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) today announced plans for a prekindergarten program that will operate through 32 classrooms on 30 DOE elementary school campuses across the state, pending legislative funding.
The program is intended to serve 640 children who qualify based on income and age requirements. Children must be four years old by July 31, 2014, which follows the new kindergarten age requirement, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. The classrooms will be staffed by DOE teachers and educational assistants. Half of the classrooms will be located on the neighbor islands.
"Our future plans for Hawaii's comprehensive early learning system involve both public and private preschools," Gov. Abercrombie said. "We have been waiting for this opportunity. This prekindergarten program, across DOE schools statewide, is part of the public portion of the early learning system."
Last year, the Legislature funded a School Readiness Program by expanding the Hawaii Department of Human Services' Preschool Open Doors program, which provides families with subsidies to attend private preschools.
The DOE-EOEL prekindergarten program is being modeled after the prekindergarten classrooms established with Race to the Top funds in the Kau-Keaau-Pahoa complex on Hawaii Island.
"These classrooms were successful due to the leadership of Complex Area Superintendent Mary Correa, the professional development support provided through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded P-3 grant to ensure quality, and the understanding of the importance of early learning by the principals," said Dr. GG Weisenfeld, EOEL director. "Our partnership with DOE in creating this program is a critical step to providing more of our children access to a high-quality prekindergarten program."
EOEL worked closely with DOE to develop plans for an infrastructure that would work within the DOE structure, but with EOEL support to ensure that children will leave the program with the skills needed to be successful in kindergarten. The new program will focus on the developmental needs of four-year-old children and be aligned with DOE expectations.
Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said: "In order for children to do well in kindergarten, they must be prepared. This initiative by the Governor is allowing public and private entities to come together in providing a quality early learning experience for our children. The Department of Education is glad to be a partner in this effort. Our focus is to get behind our young children so they can be successful learners."
Selection of the 32 classrooms was based on: Title I status; limitations of preschools in the community such as in rural areas; available space at schools; currently operating DOE prekindergarten classrooms with federal money that is about to end; and the interest and willingness of principals to work with EOEL on implementing a quality program.
EOEL is requesting $4.5 million for the program through the Abercrombie Administration's supplemental budget request. Implementation is contingent upon funding from the Legislature.