Early Learning Council; Keiki First Steps Program
Creates the Early Learning Council to govern the state's early learning system. Establishes an early learning system. Establishes the Keiki First Steps Program.
TWENTY-FOURTH LEGISLATURE, 2008
STATE OF HAWAII
A BILL FOR AN ACT
RELATING TO EARLY LEARNING.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1. 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, offer universal preschool programs 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 the only states in the nation that lacks an early learning program, 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 early learning system that ensures a continuum of quality early learning opportunities for young children from birth to age five. It is vital that the system be universally accessible and comprehensive, 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 twenty-third legislature passed Act 259, establishing the early learning educational task force, a diverse group of public and private stakeholders that was tasked with developing a five-year plan for such 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 reach their full potential by:
(1) Creating the early learning council to govern the state's early learning system;
(2) Establishing an early learning system; and
(3) Establishing the keiki first steps program.
EARLY LEARNING COUNCIL
SECTION 2. (a) There is established an early learning council within the department of education for administrative purposes only. The council shall work toward fulfilling the vision of a universally-accessible, comprehensive, and high-quality early learning system that is sensitive to family choice and cultural elements, to benefit all children from birth to age five throughout the state, 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 to five years of age;
(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 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 members of the early learning council shall consist of 15 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 president of the University of Hawaii or the president's designee;
(6) One representative from a government agency to represent federal children's programs and services;
(7) One member appointed by the president of the senate;
(8) One member appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives; and
(9) Seven members appointed by the governor who represent interests in the early learning community, including:
(A) Child development, including maternal and child health;
(B) Child care and early learning programs and services;
(C) Children with special needs;
(D) Child advocacy, including parenting support;
(E) Business; and
(c) The early learning council shall select a chairperson by a majority vote of its members. 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.
(d) 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.
(e) The early learning council may adopt rules as necessary to effectuate the purposes of this part.
(f) All meetings of the early learning council shall be exempt from chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes.
(g) 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.
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 this Act.
EARLY LEARNING SYSTEM & KEIKI FIRST STEPS PROGRAM
SECTION 4. There is established an early learning system that shall ensure a continuum of quality early learning opportunities for children from birth to age five throughout the state, to be developed and administered by the early learning council. The system:
(1) Shall be universally 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. When complete, the system shall provide a seamless experience for children from birth to five years of age;
(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, 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 education with standards-based content, curriculum, and instructional approaches for accountability, and an adequate number of well-qualified educators and administrators who are fairly compensated and have access to continuing professional development;
(4) Shall be sensitive to family choice and cultural elements.
SECTION 5. 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;
(B) Research-based early learning program models for at-risk children from birth to three years of age;
(C) Ensuring that written program standards exist and are implemented in early learning programs;
(D) Developing incentives to enhance quality in child care and early learning programs; and
(E) 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 early learning settings;
(3) Parent and community engagement;
(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;
(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 6. For the purposes of this part, "at-risk children" shall be defined as children who, because of their home and community environment, are subject to language, cultural, economic, and like disadvantages that cause them to have been determined through screening procedures to be at risk for academic failure.
SECTION 7. 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 this Act.
SECTION 8. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2008.