The State of Hawaii is committed to giving its keiki the best opportunity for school success and a strong early childhood education program is a proven way toward that, Gov. Neil Abercrombie affirmed at a press conference today at Seagull School's Early Education Center.
Through the Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL), a comprehensive and methodical approach is under way to get the first phase of a high-quality state-funded program in place by school year 2014-15.
"Education is a top priority for my administration," Gov. Abercrombie said. "I'm pleased to say that the Executive Office on Early Learning, under the direction of Director Terry Lock, is carrying out my mandate for a comprehensive program, which will meet or exceed the best in the nation."
The Abercrombie Administration has included $32.5 million for EOEL in the biennium budget for a school readiness program. In the first year, $3.5 million would be for critical planning and program development. In the second year, $28.9 million would support school readiness opportunities for about 3,500 4-year-olds who would not be eligible for kindergarten due to a new birthdate cutoff of July 31, starting in 2014. Eventually, the goal is a statewide early childhood education program for more 4-year-olds.
The school readiness program is part of the Hawaii Early Childhood Action Strategy -- "Taking Action for Hawaii's Children" -- that EOEL is developing to help shape the state's policy agenda on behalf of children. The action strategy also includes goals for health and development of children, support for families, and continuity in early childhood experiences. "We are focusing on understanding what the current early childhood development and learning conditions are and identifying how they can be improved," said Gov. Abercrombie.
"Now that the action strategy is defined and we have the developmental milestones outlined in the Hawaii Early Learning and Development Standards (HELDS), we have identified the best outcomes-based criteria for children to be used in the school readiness program," Lock said. "The HELDS provide age and stage expectations for children, birth through kindergarten."
To learn more about the state's school readiness program, visit: http://earlylearning.hawaii.gov/