Monumental Early Learning Bill Expanding Access to Preschool Passes Final Committee
HB961 will provide increased preschool subsidies for low- to moderate-income families statewide
HONOLULU, HI — A bill to expand access to preschool passed unanimously on Wednesday by House and Senate conferees. HB961 increases early learning opportunities and financial assistance through the Preschool Open Doors (POD) program and the state’s Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL). The measure is a key component to the Ready Keiki initiative led by Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke to expand access to preschool for all Hawaiʻi three- and four-year-olds by 2032.
Along with HB961, $38.8 million was added for Preschool Open Doors in a final version of the state budget bill. The funding will allow POD to expand their subsidy eligibility to include three-year-olds beginning August 2024.
Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke has been a strong supporter of the measure, working closely with early childcare and education advocates to increase financial assistance for families and expand early learning opportunities for Hawaiʻi’s youngest learners. “Ready Keiki is a way to reimagine education in our state and expand access so that all local families have the opportunity to benefit from early learning,” said Luke. “All the momentum building now would not be possible without the decades of hard work from the early learning and childcare community in Hawaiʻi. Thank you to my colleagues in the legislature, Ready Keiki partners, and all those who supported the passage of this important measure.”
Currently, there are over 9,000 underserved three- and four-year-olds in Hawaiʻi. Families and working parents wishing to enroll their children in public or private preschool will now have more program options and increased financial support.
Before voting on final passage by the committee, Representative John Mizuno who chairs the House Committee on Human Services said, “HB961 is probably the biggest bill that we’re passing for the entire legislative session for 2023. This is not only a win for early education and preparing our keiki for preschool but it’s also a win for many lower-income families.” He added, “Not only is this an investment in people and our children, it’s an investment in the economy and it’s great for education. I’m very honored to be a part of something that’s so historic.”
HB961 CD1 will be up for a final vote on the floor in both House and Senate chambers before being transmitted to the Governor for passage. Learn more about Ready Keiki here.
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