School readiness bill goes to vote next week

4-27 EARLY EDUCATION

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Hawaii is one of only 11 states in America that doesn’t have a state-funded early education program.

But that could start to change when the school readiness bill goes to the floor this week at the state capitol.

Parents and guardians of young kids you may want to listen up.

Starting with the 2014 school year the junior kindergarten program will no longer be offered at our schools.

And there’s a new cut off birthday. In order for your child to be accepted into kindergarten he or she must turn 5 before August 1, 2014, five months earlier than the current cutoff.

“Which means late born children will not be entering kindergarten that particular year,” says Senator Jill Tokuda, (D) Education Committee Chair.

So before hundreds of kids fall through those cracks, the School Readiness bill offers a life boat for some families who find themselves scrambling for childcare or a preschool in which to enroll their 4 year olds.

“What we’ll be seeing is an expanded preschool open doors program will be able to provide subsidies for some of those students that would perhaps have been entering kindergarten,” explains Tokuda.

The Open Doors program is almost like a voucher program for people who meet the income requirements.

“What I liked about it you could take the money and go to any preschool you want to put your child in and it was a tuition waiver,” says Destiny Davis, a mother of two.

This bill would infuse $6 million into the already established program providing financial assistance to about 900 families statewide.

“I was actually a student at the time, and it gave me the opportunity to send her to a Montessori school which I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford at the time,” says Davis.

Although it’s not the 30 million dollar state-funded preschool program Governor Abercrombie was fighting for many say it’s a step in the right direction.

“We believe income should not prevent 4 year olds from getting to preschool and we believe this bill will be the building block to get to that point,” says Crystal Kua, Good Beginnings Alliance.

“Make sure Hawaii joins the rest of the country in having a strong publicly funded early learning system because it’s so critical that our children are ready to learn,” says Tokuda.

The bill is scheduled to be voted on by state legislators this Tuesday.

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