Early learning is crucial for all keiki

Mar. 9, 2020

Contributed by Elizabeth Ahana

In the near future, it’s possible that every keiki will benefit from early learning experiences, which set the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.

While Kamehameha Schools has been providing these opportunities for preschool keiki for almost three decades, one in four keiki in Hawai‘i don’t have preschool or early learning opportunities.

On March 4, KS stood with Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network at the State Capitol to bring awareness to the lack of affordable early learning programming in Hawaiʻi during the annual Early Learning Day. Teachers, keiki, families and businesses stood in lōkahi declaring the importance of early learning opportunities for all keiki.

While children played in the rotunda and sang with mākua, visited legislators and held signs that said “Invest in Children,” or “Quality of Our Tomorrows Rests in the Hands of the Keiki Today,” House Bill 2543, which focuses on providing access to early learning, was being prepared for its first crossover to the Senate for review on March 5.

KS CEO Jack Wong submitted testimony on February 18 about the bill: “To the ends of equity and justice, we believe the only sustainable solution is a universal public preschool system that affords all keiki, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian, wealthy and non-wealthy, with free, quality, public early learning programs. HB 2543 moves us in this right direction, with a clear commitment to solve it within 10 years. We are told there will be many obstacles for this Bill and that many will argue it is imperfect. We agree, and we support it, anyway.”

Finding affordable and suitable preschool or early learning opportuities for Hawaiʻi’s families is a challenge. Private preschool can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars per month for families depending on the program, age and level of teaching provided. On average, families are experiencing the highest cost in the nation for four-year olds at $9,600 annually.

As HB 2543 makes its way through the legislative process, it’s crucial to stand with the many organizations, public and private, who have already expressed their support for this bill and for all of Hawaiʻi’s keiki.

A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 11, at 2:45 p.m. For more information on the bill or to provide testimony, visit https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=2543 .

E kūpaʻa kākou. Hānai i ke keiki, ola ka lāhui. Nurture the child and the lāhui will thrive.