Rally at State Capitol draws support for prekindergarten programs

Keiki at an early learning rally at the State Capitol on March 17, 2014.

Children, families and community-based early learning providers gathered at the State Capitol Monday to rally for quality and improved access to early learning programs. The rally was held as part of National Education Week and included a children’s concert and activities to demonstrate the importance of prekindergarten classes.

Representatives from the Department of Human Services’ Preschool Open Doors program were on hand to distribute applications and answer questions. The program, which provides subsidies to eligible low- and moderate-income families that send their children to community-based prekindergarten programs to prepare them for kindergarten, was established by the Legislature last year as a vehicle for the state’s school readiness program.

“We need people to know that this is not just daycare. This is quality early learning experiences for our children so they can be ready to succeed,” said Christina Cox, president of KCAA Preschools of Hawaii. “Community-based preschools support working parents’ need for full-day care for their children and are uniquely suited to provide both quality education and care in a nurturing and stimulating environment.”

Organizers also aimed to raise awareness about a question that will appear on the ballot in November, asking voters whether the state constitution should be changed to permit public monies to be used to fund private, community-based preschools. If voters approve, the state will be allowed to contract with private, community-based preschools, supporting existing services and even expanding them to meet the public need.

The Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL) was established in June 2012, providing government-wide authority to guide the development of a comprehensive and integrated statewide early childhood development and learning system.

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