By: Keith Vieira
From the moment they are born, our keiki are wired to learn. They're like sponges absorbing everything around them. But many children in Hawaii are at a disadvantage.
Children in affluent homes hear 30 percent more words by age 3 than lower-income kids. That gap keeps growing into their school years, when it influences reading and other skills. If kids don't catch up by the third grade, they won't have the foundation to succeed.
Hawaii must level the playing field so that all our kids have a chance at success in school and in life. We owe that to them.
Nearly half of Hawaii's keiki are not enrolled in early-learning programs because of insufficient space or high costs their families can't afford.
Lack of access means many kids fall far behind before they even arrive at the kindergarten classroom.
We can level the playing field by making preschool available to all of Hawaii's children. Allowing public funds to be used for community-based preschool programs will provide families the additional financial support they need to help pay for the quality, pre-school education their kids need and deserve.
I've heard people say that we need to fix kindergarten through 12th grade first. Well, there is no better way to fix our schools than by having our keiki equally and better prepared to start kindergarten. We must give them a chance to succeed instead of always trying to catch up.
It's time for our state to take the bold step and invest in our keiki. It's an investment we need to make now for the future of our state.