S.B. NO.



S.D. 1
















     SECTION 1.  The purpose of this Act is to implement, upon its ratification, the amendment to article X, section 1, of the Hawaii State Constitution, as proposed in Senate Bill No. 1084, introduced in the Regular Session of 2013, by establishing a statewide early childhood education program consisting of providers of high-quality early childhood education delivered in either of Hawaii's two official languages to assist families in establishing a solid foundation for success in school so that children graduate from high school prepared for college and a career.

     It is not the intent of this Act to establish a voucher system.

     Significant research affirms that experiences and the environments in which children develop in their earliest years can have a lasting impact on their later success in school and life.  When provided with the opportunity for high-quality early childhood education, children are more likely to succeed in kindergarten and beyond and grow into capable adults who contribute positively to the larger community.  They are more likely to reach higher levels of educational attainment, earn higher salaries, and may even be healthier.

     High-quality early childhood education programs also generate significant returns on investment for society as a whole--so much so that some of the country's most respected economists are now touting early childhood education as an economic development strategy.  The investments yield a return that far exceeds the return on most public projects considered to spur economic development:  several of the most rigorous long-term studies done in this area determined returns between four to nine dollars for every dollar invested.  The public sees returns in the form of reduced welfare, crime, and special education costs; reduced homelessness and substance abuse; and increased tax revenues from program participants later in life.  This was validated for Hawaii in a 2008 study commissioned by the Good Beginnings Alliance, which found more than four dollars in return for every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education for our State.

     Of particular concern are the low-income children of Hawaii.  Currently, one in six children lives in poverty in Hawaii, making children the poorest members of our society, according to data reported by the University of Hawaii center on the family in 2013.  This number, which continues an increasing trend, is alarming because an impoverished childhood puts children at greater risk of teen pregnancy, failure to graduate from high school, poor health, and lack of secure employment in later years.

     The future is likely to be grim for this population of children, especially if left without the opportunity for early childhood education.  Reading proficiency is the leading indicator of long-term academic and life success in life; high school dropout rates are heavily associated with the inability to read proficiently by the end of grade three, and the shortfall in reading proficiency is especially pronounced among low-income children.  As stated by the 2010 national report "Learning to Read" from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, "(If) we don't get dramatically more children on track as proficient readers, the United States will lose a growing and essential proportion of its human capital to poverty, and the price will be paid not only by individual children and families, but by the entire country."

     Lack of readiness for school directly undermines reading proficiency.  If a child does not arrive at kindergarten ready to learn, he or she will most likely struggle to keep up, then eventually lose the interest and motivation needed to learn.  The achievement gap only widens with each subsequent year of schooling.

     All children need high-quality, developmentally appropriate early childhood education programs to arrive at school ready to learn.  Sadly, however, too many of our children are starting kindergarten already behind.  Only about forty per cent of Hawaii's four-year-olds receive services to prepare them for kindergarten.  In addition, not all pre-kindergarten services are of high quality--close to seventy-five per cent of fourth graders are not reading proficiently, according to data reported by the University of Hawaii center on the family in 2013.  The numbers are telling.

     Early childhood education can help close the achievement gap between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds.  The Academic Pediatric Association's Task Force on Childhood Poverty in 2013 identified providing high-quality early childhood programs and high-quality affordable child care to poor families as one of the key strategies to reducing poverty.  Studies have proven that high-quality early childhood education programs are especially effective for children from low-income families–-it is one of the strongest factors in school readiness for that population–-as well as otherwise disadvantaged children, with the great potential to alter their lifetime trajectories for success.

     It is important to note, however, that every child, regardless of his or her family income, needs and can benefit from early childhood education:  three-quarters of children from families with moderate or high incomes are not ready for school at kindergarten entry.  More than ninety per cent of kindergarten classrooms in the department of education reported that students did not meet benchmarks in all dimensions of school readiness, which include literacy, math, and school behaviors (Hawaii State School Readiness Assessment, 2012-2013 school year).  Unfortunately, studies show that students who struggle early in school rarely catch up, and consequently have less than a one in three chance of being ready for college or a career at the end of high school.

     Teachers in Hawaii, including some at the middle-school level, have shared that they can tell which students in their classrooms have and have not gone to preschool.  Early childhood education helps teachers because children will enter their classrooms better prepared; teachers will spend less time helping individual students to play catch up and can focus their energies on helping all of their students to master the knowledge and content needed to progress on time.

     Although it has been argued that the benefits of early learning disappear by the third grade, as reported by some studies of the federal Head Start program, which promotes school readiness for children from low-income families, reliable studies have found that gains made in life skills do not fade.  Head Start graduates were less likely to repeat grades or be diagnosed with a learning disability, and more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

     The executive office on early learning has been planning for a program that will provide access to high-quality early childhood education for all of Hawaii's children.  The United States Census Bureau estimates there are 17,000 four-year-olds in Hawaii, who come from families of varying incomes.  Although low-income families require the most assistance, many moderate-income families, especially those who are just entering the middle class, also struggle to meet the cost of early learning on their own.  Hawaii ranks twenty-seventh among the least affordable states for center-based care for a four-year-old.  In 2012, the average annual cost of full-time center-based care for a four-year-old in Hawaii was $8,172, totaling more than nine per cent of the state median income for a married couple.

     Once the constitutional amendment passes, the State will establish a program through which:

     (1)  Capacity can be built to serve four-year-old children;

     (2)  The infrastructure made available by the private sector would reduce the amount of public dollars that will be spent on facilities to accommodate four-year-old children; and

     (3)  Higher quality can be instituted across all providers participating in the program through the required use of quality standards that are linked to children's educational outcomes, which research emphasizes is necessary to produce significant outcomes for children both in the near- and long-term.

     To help more of our four-year-old children have a quality early childhood education experience, various program options must be available to them based on community resources.  Families face unique circumstances and every community has its limitations in regards to access, such as proximity and transportation to a program, which factor into a family's ability to send their children to a program. 

     Therefore, this program will be delivered through several vehicles:  center-based programs, group child care homes, and family child care homes, including those run by faith-based providers as far as state and federal laws allow; programs on department of education school campuses; and family-child interaction learning programs.

     Private programs have been the backbone of the State's early childhood services for decades.  The State has invested very little of its own general funds in early care and education supports and services to ensure that children are ready to learn and succeed in school.  Center-based programs are those found in preschools, nursery schools, and child care centers that are operated by private organizations and that are licensed by the department of human services.  Group child care homes provide care by two adults for seven to twelve children and must be licensed.  Family child care homes provide care for three to six children in the provider's own home and must be licensed if more than two unrelated children are enrolled.

     Programs on department of education campuses will be staffed by department of education teachers.  Currently, there are several experimental programs of this type, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and Race to the Top.  Other school-based programs that exist consist of special education programs staffed by department of education special education teachers and those participating in the Pre-Plus Program, a public-private partnership through which seventeen preschool facilities have been developed and built on public elementary school campuses and private, department of human services-licensed preschool providers contracted to operate them.

     Family-child interaction programs are provided in a variety of public and private facilities, including public schools and parks, operating, on average, several hours a day and a few days each week.  They require the child's caregiver to participate with the child and educate the caregiver about how to encourage the child's learning at home.  These programs provide an important option for our native Hawaiian community.

     The program involves public-private partnerships to enable the State to make the best use of available resources--of capacity and expertise--in the public and private sectors and foster the development of new ones.

     The portion of the program that will be delivered through private providers will be done through contracts with the providers; this program does not institute a voucher system.

     The program requires participating providers to use quality standards that are linked to children's educational outcomes.  Research has shown that there are certain components that are associated with an early childhood education program's ability to produce positive child outcomes.  Although the early childhood field lacks consensus on a single approach for categorizing factors that define program quality, there are two broad dimensions commonly associated with promoting higher rates of learning and development in children:  structural aspects such as physical environment, child-caregiver ratios, group size, caregiver qualifications, and caregiver compensation; and the quality of curriculum and intentional teaching.  Recent research has shown that the latter category has more significant impact on children's outcomes, and is the basis for the quality standards that will be required by this program--positive teacher-child interactions, individual child formative assessments, and family engagement.

     There is substantial evidence that children who attend early childhood education programs are significantly affected by their interactions with teachers or caregivers and their responsiveness.  A recent study found that of the five quality indicators most often used in program evaluation systems, teacher-child interactions were the strongest predictor of children's learning.

     Another key indicator linked to children's outcomes is the use of a curriculum that is based on child development.  The degree to which it is implemented fully is dependent on the use of an ongoing, authentic child assessment that is used to individualize and is both intellectually rich and broad enough to meet children's social and emotional development needs.  These are known as formative assessments.

     Research has also demonstrated that quality programs involve families and communicate with them on an ongoing basis.  One of the evidence-based methods for engaging families is home-based instruction programs through a home visiting approach, which help families prepare their child for success in school and beyond. 

     The legislature has been interested in early learning for decades.


State funding approved for the preschool open doors program to help families pay for early education and care using a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay.  Components include child development workshops and staff development in participating preschools.


The University of Hawaii board of regents created the University of Hawaii center on the family in response to Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 82, Regular Session of 1989, to enhance the well-being of Hawaii's families through interdisciplinary research, education, and community outreach.  Early childhood is one of its focal areas.

Act 77, Session Laws of Hawaii 1997, as amended by Act 60, Session Laws of Hawaii 2000 and Act 13, Session Laws of Hawaii 2002.

Recognized a public-private partnership between the State and a private nonprofit corporation created as a focal point for policy development and dedicated to enhancing, developing, and coordinating quality early childhood education and care services--the Good Beginnings Alliance.  Tasked the Good Beginnings Alliance with overseeing at least four community councils, each county except Kalawao to be represented by a community council, to develop plans to provide services to children and families and possible local funding sources.  Established an interdepartmental council to assist with the work.

House Concurrent Resolution No. 38, Regular Session of 1998

Established in state policy the goal that "all of Hawaii's children will be safe, healthy and ready to succeed."

Act 177, Session Laws of Hawaii 2002

Appropriated funds for the pre-plus program, including capital improvement project moneys, to build preschools on elementary school campuses throughout the State.  The lieutenant governor's office assumed planning oversight until oversight was transferred to the department of human services. 

Act 13, Session Laws of Hawaii 2002

The legislature led the nation by statutorily defining "school readiness," which acknowledged the joint responsibility of families, schools, and communities in preparing children for lifelong learning.

Act 219, Session Laws of Hawaii 2004

Established an unfunded, two-tiered junior kindergarten and kindergarten program in the department of education beginning with the 2006-2007 school year.

Act 151, Session Laws of Hawaii 2005

Created the early childhood education task force with the focus of "young children are ready to have successful learning experiences when there is a positive interaction among the child's developmental characteristics, school practices, and family and community support."

Act 259, Session Laws of Hawaii 2006

Established the early learning educational task force to develop a five-year plan for a comprehensive and sustainable early learning system.  The plan, completed prior to the Regular Session of 2008, included detailed costs for the establishment and operation of an early learning system in Hawaii that would include children from birth to age five.  It also included, as requested by the legislature, an implementation and financing schedule that begins with services to four-year-old children and proceeds to younger age groups; mechanisms to ensure cross-sector and interdepartmental collaboration; measures to ensure the continuing professional development of teachers and administrators; and provisions for the promotion of the importance of early learning to families, policymakers, and the general public.

Act 14, Special Session Laws of Hawaii 2008

Established the State's early learning system, known as keiki first steps.  Research has indicated that a preschool setting might be a more appropriate placement (than junior kindergarten).  Established the early learning council, to be attached to the department of education for administrative purposes only, to develop and administer the early learning system to benefit all children throughout the State, from birth until the time they enter kindergarten.  Established the keiki first steps grant program.  Statutorily established the pre-plus program within the department of human services and designated the department of human services and department of education to work collaboratively to develop suitable pre-plus classrooms on department of education campuses statewide, including conversion charter school campuses.  Promoted the development of early learning facilities.

Act 194, Session Laws of Hawaii 2009

Required the department of education, beginning with the 20102011 school year, to use successful assessment tools and protocols for determining a student's initial placement and for decision-making about a student's movement between junior kindergarten, kindergarten, and into grade one.  Required the early learning council to develop a plan to ensure the needs of junior kindergarteners are addressed.

Act 183, Session Laws of Hawaii 2010

Amended the public school kindergarten entry age beginning the 2013-2014 school year, so that children must be at least five years old on the first day of instruction.  Also required the department of education and early learning council to develop a plan to assess the success of junior kindergarten programs at individual schools, that would also address providing educational opportunities for those who would have been eligible to attend kindergarten prior to the age change.

Act 178, Session Laws of Hawaii 2012

Established the executive office on early learning; charged the office with creating a comprehensive early childhood development and learning system for Hawaii's keiki, prenatal to age five; established the early learning advisory board to replace the early learning council, as an advisory body to the office; repealed the existing junior kindergarten program for four- and early five-year-olds at the end of the 2013-2014 school year; and required that beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, students must be at least five years old on July 31 of that school year to attend kindergarten.  The office was tasked with developing a plan to implement an early learning program in the 2014-2015 school year.

S.B. No. 1084, Regular Session of 2013

Proposed an amendment to the Hawaii State Constitution to permit the appropriation of public funds for private early childhood education programs passed, with more than a two-thirds majority in each house.

     Therefore, the purpose of this Act is to fulfill the State's intent to provide a much-needed early childhood education program for our children prior to its obligation for education from kindergarten to grade 12, which addresses the unique needs of families and communities and institutes the use of quality standards that are most linked to children's educational outcomes.

     SECTION 2.  Chapter 302L, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

     "§302L-     Early childhood education program.  (a)  There is established within the early learning system an early childhood education program to be administered by the office.  The early childhood education program shall:

     (1)  Through either of the State's two official languages, prepare children for school and active participation in society; and

(2)  Provide equitable access to high-quality early childhood education that addresses children's physical, cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional development.

     (b)  The early childhood education program shall serve three- and four-year-old children, with priority extended to:

     (1)  Children in the year prior to being eligible to attend kindergarten; and

     (2)  Underserved or at-risk children.

     (c)  Enrollment in the early childhood education program shall be voluntary.  A child who is enrolled in or eligible to attend a public elementary school, or who is required to attend school pursuant to section 302A-1132, shall not be eligible for enrollment in the early childhood education program.

     (d)  The office may contract with eligible providers, which may include private providers, of early childhood education to increase the capacity of the early childhood education program to provide high-quality early childhood education to children across the State.  Eligible providers shall incorporate quality standards in their programs as required by the early childhood education program pursuant to rules adopted by the office.  The office may provide support to providers to incorporate these quality standards, including support related to teacher-child interactions, individual child assessments, and family engagement.  Eligible providers shall comply with all applicable state and federal laws.

     (e)  Eligible providers of the early childhood education program shall incorporate quality standards in their programs that are research-based, developmentally appropriate practices associated with better educational outcomes for children, such as:

     (1)  Positive teacher-child interactions;

     (2)  Use of individual child assessments that are used for ongoing instructional planning, based upon all areas of childhood development and learning, including cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional approaches to learning and health and physical development;

     (3)  Family engagement; and

     (4)  Alignment with the Hawaii early learning and development standards, which align with department of education standards, including common core state standards, state content and performance standards, and general learner outcomes for grades kindergarten to twelve, to facilitate a seamless and high-quality educational experience for children.

The office shall monitor implementation of the quality standards pursuant to rules adopted by the office.

     (f)  The office shall coordinate with other agencies and programs to facilitate comprehensive services for early childhood education.

     (g)  The office shall collect data to evaluate services provided, inform policy, and improve the provision of early childhood education through the early childhood education program.

     (h)  The office shall adopt rules pursuant to chapter 91 necessary to carry out the purposes of this section, including compliance with all applicable state and federal laws.

     (i)  Nothing in this section shall be construed to enable the establishment of a voucher program for educational purposes."

     SECTION 3.  Section 302L-1, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding three new definitions to be appropriately inserted and to read as follows:

     ""Early childhood education program" means an education program for children provided for in section 302L-   ."

     "Family engagement" means practices that engage families in meaningful ways and recognize the need for families to actively support their child's learning and development, including classrooms that make families feel welcome, communication with families, the promotion of responsible parenting, and involvement in decisions that affect families and their children.

     "Underserved children" means children who, because of circumstances such as their place of residence, limited transportation, or family's financial standing, have little or no access to early learning services."

     SECTION 4.  New statutory material is underscored.

     SECTION 5.  This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2050, and upon ratification of a constitutional amendment permitting the appropriation of public funds for private early childhood education.



Report Title:

Early Childhood Education Program



Establishes the Early Childhood Education Program within the Early Learning System established by section 302L-2, Hawaii Revised Statutes.  Effective 7/1/2050.  (SD1)




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