Gov. Abercrombie signs school readiness bill

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A milestone has been reached for early learning in Hawaii.

A bill signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Monday will provide funding to help hundreds of preschool students next year.

It can be a costly investment. Last year, the state says the average family in Hawaii paid over $600 a month for preschool.

But a new program will change that by subsidizing the cost for more than 900 children next year.

“It’s a start. That’s all it is, is a start. But it’s everything,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “It’s a promise that we’re going to take this initial foundation and build on it.”

Hawaii is one of 11 states that does not have a state-funded preschool program.

The governor says this $7.16 million program is the cornerstone to one day provide early learning to every child.

“It is a civic sin to allow some children to fall behind because they do not happen to have the best economic advantages or circumstances,” Gov. Abercrombie said.

The program will be administered by the state Department of Human Services. It will serve 4-year-olds, with a priority given to underserved or at-risk children, and those from low to moderate-income families.

It will also close the gap for children who are late-born and not eligible to attend kindergarten.

“That’s what this is all about because if they’re ready for kindergarten, they’re ready for school and life. They’re ready to succeed, we’ve done our job as parents,” said Sen. Jill Tokuda, Education Committee Chairperson.

Studies show that children who attend quality pre-kindergarten programs do better in elementary school and are more likely to graduate from high school. They are also less likely to be involved in crime and rely on social programs.

“This is not just an investment in these young people, but it is an investment to our community for the long-term,” Sen. Tokuda said.

It’s an investment solidified by the swipe of a pen and 10 crayola markers.

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