Preschool funding at risk for low-income families - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Preschool funding at risk for low-income families

Preschool funding at risk for low-income families Preschool funding at risk for low-income families
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

At Seagull School in Kapolei, 27 preschoolers have their monthly tuitions paid for because their parents qualify for financial aid. Roella Foronda is applying for the Preschool Open Doors program for next year to cover the cost for her son.

"I work full-time," she said. "I need assistance because pre-school is expensive,. I'm always looking for different opportunities for scholarships and funding for him to go to school."

But the state isn't appropriating enough money for the program to help hundreds of parents in 2016. Preschool Open Doors faces a $6 million funding cut.

"Unfortunately, for this particular program we have not seen the movement to try to shore up at least the current level of funding," said Jeannine Souki of Good Beginnings Alliance.

Lawmakers did appropriate $1.6 million for next year. But the Senate and House versions of the budget do not include the additional $6 million needed to maintain present services, and the program is one of many vying for money.  House Education Committee chairman Roy Takumi is hopeful financing comes through but there is no guarantee it will.

"When the budget is put to bed and there's dollars left over, it is true, there are way more appropriation bills than there's dollars available," he said.

Senate Bill 64 calls for restoring some money. Souki said without full funding, slots for up to 1,050 preschoolers will be eliminated. The help with childcare allows parents of Project Open Doors children to work.

"Some parents have mentioned that they would have to cut back on work or not work at all, and then would have to rely heavily on TANF programs," Souki said.

Several parents have written letters to lawmakers begging that the money be released.

"There's such limited scholarships for preschool already," Foronda said.

Project Open Doors has been administered by the state Department of Human Services since 1990.  Nearly half the families helped are single-parent households.

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