Hawaii's tiny state-funded preschool program added just 10 students last year

Hawaii's tiny state-funded preschool program added just 10 students last year

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At a time when states are sending more funds to publicly-funded preschools, Hawaii added just 10 students to its program over the last year.

Hawaii's pre-kindergarten program enrolls 365 (or 2 percent) of the state's 4-year-olds.

That's according to the State of Preschool Yearbook released earlier this week by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Hawaii ranks 42nd nationally for the number of children served in state preschools. Seven states have no preschool program.

But nationwide, the analysis found, spending on state-funded preschool programs reached an all-time high in 2016.

About one third of U.S. 4-year-olds are served by state preschool programs. Some 8 percent of children are in federal Head Start programs. And the vast majority -- 57 percent -- are either in private programs or don't attend preschool.

In 2013, Hawaii eliminated its junior kindergarten program, which was aimed at late-born kindergartners, and pledged to greatly expand state-funded preschool access.

But that preschool expansion didn't happen, in part because of funding issues, and the parents of thousands of kids were forced to find other options.

In the islands, according to the new report:

  • State spending on preschool in the 2015-16 school year remained flat -- at $2.8 million.
  • State spending per child ranked seventh nationwide, despite a $204 drop to $7,467 in 2015-2016
  • The state got a competitive federal Preschool Development grant to serve an additional 78 children through charter school programs.

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