By Deborah Zysman
Good Beginnings Alliance
Hawai‘i‘s children deserve the best possible start in life and a level playing field when it comes to access to preschool. Now is the time for the state Legislature to take a bold first step and provide funding for a state-supported program to give all 4-year-olds the opportunity to attend preschool.
The price tag will be significant, but early investment in our keiki will lead to great returns for our state. Currently, about 45% of public school kindergartners on Maui did not attend preschool, which is slightly higher than the state average. Research tells us that high-quality early education prepares our children for school and life.
Good Beginnings Alliance, through the Be My Voice! Hawai‘i campaign, is urging lawmakers to focus on funding so island families can have access to affordable, high-quality preschool. It has been estimated that over 650 children on Maui will be affected next school year by the change in Junior Kindergarten eligibility. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the importance of early education and to advocate for a state-funded preschool system for all 4-year-olds. We continue to meet with and encourage legislators, business leaders, providers and families to speak out so that Hawai‘i’s children are a top priority in the eyes of our policy makers.
Unfortunately, Hawaii is one of only 11 states without state-funded preschool system. This creates a domino effect that makes it harder for our state’s children to succeed in school and later on in life.
Business too has a stake in this program – they want to keep our families and local workforce here and attract skilled workers to our economy; affordable preschool education is an enticement to make that happen. Let’s stay competitive in the global marketplace by giving our children a path toward success that starts with preschool.
To make this a reality will require your help. By making your voice heard in the State Legislature, we can bring this issue to the forefront of our current legislative session. Visit our website www.bemyvoicehawaii.org to get involved. Write, email and call your representative and urge them to vote in favor of funding Remember, for our islands’ keiki to be successful, we are going to need your voice!