HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The war of words is heating up over a question on the November ballot asking voters to approve use of public funds for private preschools.
The constitutional amendment is the subject of a Pre-K ad clash.
"Yes on 4 will give more children a chance for a healthy start" says an ad in support of the amendment.
Supporters say it's a "yes-brainer" to use public money for private preschools to double attendance for 4 year olds.
A dueling ad from the Hawaii State Teachers Association claims '4' would only benefit the privileged. In the 30 second spot, a mom holding her son walks on a public school campus and says, "Private preschools are expensive and serve mostly affluent areas so the only winners are high income families."
HSTA President Wil Okabe said in an earlier interview why the union is against 4, saying "It's going to hurt the most neediest students."
A brochure to HSTA members claims "the amendment would take money from public schools to benefit private preschools" and "rob public schools of funds".
"There's a lot that has to happen" says Executive Office on Early Learning Director GG Weisenfeld. "It doesn't just mean oh it's passed, now we have funds. It will take several years to get there."
HSTA says 4 would "subsidize wealthy private preschools" that charge as much as 15-thousand dollars for annual tuition.
Okabe adds, "If they can get a supplement from the State in order to give parents vouchers, to be able to pay for their private preschools. They feel they'd probably have more students."
Weisenfeld explains, "This is not a voucher program. It really is a program in which we can contract with private providers and there are many steps that need to happen."
Hawaii's Educational Policy Center at UH says the proposed amendment "does not create a voucher program" or "automatically appropriate any public funds."
It says the proposed amendment "creates an option for the State to partner with private providers."
Weisenfeld says, "Our State, we're the last, the only state that does not allow for public funds to go to private community based preschools."
The public school teachers' union says the 'Abercrombie plan' is premature, without funding in place.
In Okabe's words, "it's going to cost 125 million dollars and they realized it's not clear in the constitutional amendment."
Weisenfeld counters with this statement. "If the constitutional amendment does not pass, it will cost more. We'll need to make more classrooms within DOE campuses."
It's up to voters to decide on November 4th.
A reminder, a blank vote counts as a no.
To learn more about the constitutional amendment, check out these links.