Report Title:

Early Learning System; Early Learning Council; Keiki First Steps

 

Description:

Establishes an early learning system in the state. Creates the Early Learning Council to govern the early learning system. Establishes the Keiki First Steps Program. (HB2973 HD1)

 


HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

H.B. NO.

2973

TWENTY-FOURTH LEGISLATURE, 2008

H.D. 1

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT


 

 

RELATING TO EARLY LEARNING.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


PART I

PURPOSE

SECTION 1. As stated in Act 51, Session Laws of Hawaii 2004, the legislature finds that "although many responsibilities are laid upon education, ultimately education must do no less than advance the endowment of human culture itself, so that each succeeding generation finds itself further along the road towards peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability in a society guided by creativity, compassion, and curiosity."

The legislature finds that Hawaii's children, starting at birth, need support and guidance from parents, caregivers, and teachers to reach their full potential as citizens. As a report released in 2007 by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, The Science of Early Childhood Development, Closing the Gap Between What We Know and What We Do, so aptly states:

"The future of any society depends on its ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation. Stated simply, today's children will become tomorrow's citizens, workers, and parents. When we invest wisely in children and families, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. When we fail to provide our children with what they need to build a strong foundation for healthy and productive lives, we put our future prosperity and security at risk."

Yet, many of Hawaii's children lack the fundamental skills they should have when they enter kindergarten, a problem for which our state, let alone society as a whole, cannot afford a delayed response. From Neurons to Neighborhoods, a report developed by a committee of seventeen national experts in the fields of education, psychiatry, neuroscience, economics, and public policy, found that

"striking disparities in what children know and can do are evident well before they enter kindergarten. These differences are strongly associated with social and economic circumstances, and they are predictive of subsequent academic performance."

Research has confirmed that a large gap exists between the academic abilities of high- and low-income children by age six: the latter "lag further behind in acquiring more sophisticated reading and math knowledge and skills such as recognizing words by sight or solving simple addition and subtraction problems" (National Child Care Association, 2002).

The gap can be closed by building an early learning system for Hawaii. Decades of research have determined that investments in high-quality early learning systems, grounded on the collective involvement of parents, caregivers, and teachers, produce significant, long-term benefits for all children. These benefits include improved school success, reduced dropout rates, reduced crime, and increased workforce preparedness and productivity.

Thirty-six states now offer some type of publicly-funded preschool program. Two states, Oklahoma and Georgia, have established preschool systems for all four-year-olds statewide, and New York, Florida, and Illinois are in the process of establishing similar systems.

Hawaii is now one of only a few states in the nation that lacks a state-sponsored early learning system, despite the fact that it was one of the leaders in providing universal access for kindergarten and providing in 2001 a definition for "school readiness", which acknowledged the joint responsibility of families, schools, and communities in preparing children for lifelong learning. However, it is not too late for Hawaii to move forward, and Hawaii can benefit from the lessons learned and best practices developed across the rest of the country.

The legislature finds that the state needs a comprehensive, cohesive, and sustainable early learning system that ensures a spectrum of quality early learning opportunities for young children from birth until the time they enter kindergarten. It is vital that the system be widely accessible and provide high-quality education and services that are standards-based and require accountability, all the while maintaining sensitivity to family choice and cultural elements.

In 2006, the 23rd legislature passed Act 259, establishing the early learning educational task force, a diverse group of public and private stakeholders given the mission to develop a five-year plan for an early learning system. This Act takes into consideration the findings and recommendations of the task force.

The purpose of this Act is to help Hawaii's children succeed upon entry into kindergarten by:


(1) Establishing an early learning system;

(2) Creating the early learning council to govern the state's early learning system; and

(3) Establishing the keiki first steps program.

PART II

EARLY LEARNING SYSTEM

SECTION 2. The Hawaii Revised Statutes is amended by adding a new chapter to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

Chapter

early learning system

   -A Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires, "at-risk children" means children who, because of their home and community environment, are subject to language, cultural, economic, and other disadvantages that cause them to have been determined through screening procedures to be at risk for academic failure, including children:

(1) Who are eligible for special education services;

(2) Who are English as a second language learners;

(3) Who reside within a public school district, established under chapter 302A, that is in need of improvement based on the criteria of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110), as amended; or

(4) Whose family income is no more than two hundred per cent of the federal poverty level.

   -B Early learning system. (a) There is established an early learning system that shall ensure a spectrum of quality early learning opportunities for children, throughout the state, from birth until the time they enter kindergarten, to be developed and administered by the early learning council. When complete, the system shall provide a seamless learning experience for children from birth until the time they enter kindergarten, that maximizes their potential for success upon entry into kindergarten. The system:

(1) Shall be voluntary and widely accessible. In its first phases, the system shall focus on all three- and four-year old children in the state, giving priority to underserved or at-risk children;

(2) Shall be a comprehensive system in which:

(A) All existing programs, whether publicly- or privately-run, which consist of a variety of early learning approaches, service deliveries, and settings, including center-based settings, family child care, family-child interaction learning settings, and home-based instruction, are coordinated;

(B) Public and private resources are maximized; and

(C) The use of public facilities for either publicly- or privately-run early learning programs is maximized;

(3) Shall provide high-quality early childhood development and early learning experiences with standards-based content, curriculum, and accountability, and well-qualified educators and administrators who are fairly compensated and have access to continuing professional development;

(4) Shall offer opportunities for parent and community engagement and parent education and support; and

(5) Shall be sensitive to family choice and cultural elements.

(b) Actions may be taken to increase the numbers in and enhance the quality of the early learning workforce, as part of the early learning system, including:

(1) Offering higher education scholarships to existing or potential early childhood educators and administrators;

(2) Providing community-based early childhood education training;

(3) Providing consultation on social-emotional development;

(4) Increasing the availability of early childhood education coursework, including distance learning courses;

(5) Supplementing child care subsidy rates administered by the department of human services; and

(6) Providing substitute teacher allowances.

Grants and contracts may be awarded to qualified early childhood educators, community-based training programs, and higher education institutions to achieve the purposes of this subsection.

   -C Early learning council. (a) There is established an early learning council which shall be attached to the department of education for administrative purposes only. The council shall develop a comprehensive, cohesive, and sustainable early learning system of voluntary educational programs to benefit all children, throughout the state, from birth until the time they enter kindergarten, including:

(1) Establishing policies and procedures governing its operations;

(2) Developing a plan, with goals and objectives, for the early learning system, including the development, execution, and monitoring of a phased implementation plan;

(2) Coordinating, improving, and expanding upon existing programs and services for children from birth until the time they enter kindergarten;

(3) Establishing policies and procedures governing the inclusion and establishment of additional programs and services;

(4) Developing and implementing methods of maximizing the involvement of parents, caregivers, and teachers in the early learning system;

(5) Providing for accountability within the early learning system to ensure improvement of programs and services and high-quality results;

(6) Providing for the most effective and efficient allocation of fiscal resources within the early learning system;

(7) Collecting, interpreting, and releasing data relating to early learning in the state; and

(8) Promoting awareness of early learning opportunities to families and the general public.

(b) The early learning council may offer scholarships and may award grants and contracts to qualified early childhood educators, community-based training programs, and higher education institutions, pursuant to section    -B(B).

(c) The early learning council shall include representation from both public and private organizations, and its membership shall reflect regional and cultural and ethnic diversity to ensure representation of the needs of all children in the state. The early learning council shall consist of 13 members as follows:

(1) One representative of the office of the governor;

(2) The superintendent of education or the superintendent's designee;

(3) The director of human services or the director's designee;

(4) The director of health or the director's designee;

(5) The director of labor and industrial relations or the director's designee;

(6) The president of the University of Hawaii or the president's designee;

(7) The director of the Head Start State Collaboration Office or the director's designee;

(8) A representative of the military child care system in the Hawaii region;

(9) One representative from a private institute of higher education that offers early childhood education programs;

(10) The chief executive officer of the Kamehameha Schools or the chief executive officer's designee;

(11) A representative of child care program providers;

(12) A representative from the Keiki Funders Network, which is a network of public and private funders that support early learning; and

(13) A representative of the Association of Mayors.

(d) The early learning council shall select a chairperson by a majority vote of its members; provided that the chairperson shall be a representative from the private sector. A majority of the council shall constitute quorum to do business. The concurrence of a majority of all the members to which the council is entitled shall be necessary to make any action of the council valid.

(e) Members of the early learning council shall serve three-year terms; provided that half of these members, as determined by the council, shall be appointed to two-year terms to allow for staggered terms.

(f) The early learning council may contract with any state agencies to administer various components and programs of the early learning system.

(g) The early learning council may adopt rules as necessary to effectuate the purposes of this part.

(h) All meetings of the early learning council shall be exempt from chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

(i) The early learning council shall submit to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of each regular session, a report regarding:

(1) Its progress; and

(2) The status of the early learning system in the state.

   -D Keiki first steps program. There is established the keiki first steps program, to be developed and administered by the early learning council as the first phase in the development of the state's early learning system. The program shall focus on the coordination, improvement, and expansion of existing programs and services within the early learning system for three- and four-year-old children in the state, with priority for underserved or at-risk children. The core components of the program shall be:

(1) The identification of research-based and proven curricula and methods, and implementation of various means of improving existing curricula and methods, including:

(A) Research-based early learning program models for three- and four-year-old children, including at-risk children;

(B) Ensuring that written program standards exist and are implemented in early learning programs;

(C) Developing incentives to enhance quality in child care and early learning programs; and

(D) Developing an effective, comprehensive, and integrated system to provide training, technical assistance, and monitoring to ensure high quality services are provided in all early learning programs;

(2) Low staff-child ratio and group size in various early learning settings, including center-based settings, family child care, family-child interaction learning settings, and home-based instruction;

(3) Opportunities for parent and community engagement and parent education and support;

(4) Health and developmental screenings for children;

(5) Well-qualified and adequately-compensated staff, including:

(A) Ensuring more staff have opportunities to receive early childhood education degrees;

(B) Providing access to continuing professional development for all staff;

(C) Establishing a structure for standardized roles across the early learning system and for incentives such as awarding credentials to staff who have received certain levels of achievement; and

(D) Addressing the early learning labor market and working conditions to build a qualified, diverse, and stable early learning workforce;

and

(6) Child assessment and program and service evaluation to maintain and promote high quality in early learning programs and services, including:

(A) Developing guidelines for developmental screening and ongoing assessment of individual children served by early learning programs to facilitate appropriate instruction and document progress;

(B) Developing guidelines for the use of child and program data for programs to perform self-assessments to assist continuous efforts to improve the programs;

(C) Developing an evaluation plan for programs and services; and

(D) Sharing of data across programs and services to assist evaluation and planning."

SECTION 3. There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $      or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2008-2009 to support the operations of the early learning council, including supplies, personnel, and travel expenses.

The sum appropriated shall be expended by the department of education for the purposes of    -C.

SECTION 4. There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $      or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2008-2009 for the keiki first steps program.

The sum appropriated shall be expended by the department of education for the purposes of    -D.

PART III

EARLY LEARNING FACILITIES

SECTION 5. Chapter 302A, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"302A-   Early childhood education facilities; pre-plus. (a) There is established the pre-plus program. The department and the department of human services shall work collaboratively to develop suitable pre-plus classrooms on department campuses statewide, including conversion charter school campuses, for programs in the early learning system established by chapter    , serving children between birth until the time they enter kindergarten.

(b) The department shall coordinate site selection for public school sites, with priority given to public school sites that serve at-risk children as defined in section    -A."

SECTION 6. Section 302A-1506.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"[[]302A-1506.5[]] Early childhood education facilities; identifying sites. (a) The department of education shall identify unused public school facilities for use by early childhood education programs. Suitable empty classrooms, as determined by the department, shall be inventoried for potential use in early childhood education programs. Priority shall be given to facilities on sites with sufficient space for three or more classrooms to be renovated or constructed.

(b) The department shall assist in the identification of possible construction sites for private providers to build early childhood education facilities.

(c) The department shall submit an annual report to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of each regular session on:

(1) The number of classrooms that would be suitable for programs in the early learning system established by chapter    ; and

(2) The cost of renovating these classrooms to meet the standards of programs in the early learning system."

PART IV

MISCELLANEOUS

SECTION 7. In codifying the new sections added by section 2 of this Act, the revisor of statutes shall substitute appropriate section numbers for the letters used in designating the new sections in this Act.

SECTION 8. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 9. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2008.