Hawaii law establishes early learning program
HONOLULU (AP) — A new law requires Hawaii students be at least 5 years old on July 31 to enter kindergarten the same year.
Hawaii is phasing out junior kindergarten to make way for implementation of an early learning program. Legislation that Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law Thursday establishes an early learning office that he says will help develop a plan for the program.
Hawaii is one of 11 states without a publicly funded preschool program.
The plan is due to be delivered to the Legislature 20 days prior to the start of the 2013 legislative season. It will involve a universal network of child care and preschools to serve every 4-year-old in the state.
“One of the goals of my administration was to ensure that there was a collaborative effort to see to it that every young child in Hawaii has access to high-quality preschool,” Abercrombie said. “Investing in the next generation is the wisest decision that we can make as a people, and this measure makes such an investment.”
With the new law, Hawaii joins other states where students start kindergarten at age 5. A law passed in 2010 made it clear a child must be at least 5 by July 31 for kindergarten, but the new law pushes the mandate back to the 2014-15 school year to align with implementation of the program. It also gives parents time to plan ahead for the change.
The measure focuses on the 4-year-olds most impacted by the loss of junior kindergarten, said State Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Jill Tokuda.
“What we know as parents and what the research tells us is clear: Access to developmentally and age appropriate educational opportunities makes a difference,” she said.
Terry Lock, currently the state’s early childhood coordinator, will head the newly established early learning office.
“The governor and the Legislature clearly recognize that high quality early learning programs that are affordable and accessible for all children are critically important for ensuring the success of Hawaii’s keiki,” she said.