Could ‘pop-up preschools’ help solve Hawaii’s child care woes? Legislators think so.

Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 6:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - An increase to the minimum wage, tax credits, affordable housing and universal preschool.

Lawmakers say those are their priorities this legislative session.

Among the most ambitious proposals: Working quickly to significantly bolster the availability of preschool to Hawaii families.

To make that happen, House leaders are supporting so-called “pop-up preschools.”

They want to build new classrooms in places like Aloha Stadium, the Hawaii Convention Center and UH-West Oahu, all near rail stations slated to start running in October.

“Take the kids go to Aloha Stadium, drop them off or go to the Convention Center because they are going to work in Waikiki. Drop them off. We are looking at a different model,” said state Rep. Sylvia Luke, House Finance chairwoman.

Parents like Kim Moa were receptive to the idea.

“I have a 1-year-old and my parents watch her right now because we can’t really afford daycare, preschool. Anything to relieve the burden on local families and that’s financially sustainable,” she said.

There are many families in the same position. In fact, lawmakers say there are about 20,000 3-and 4-year-olds across the state who don’t go to preschool.

Luke says each pop-up would cost about $150,000. The goal is to open 100 schools each year for a decade for a total of 1,000 classrooms.

"It's about changing that mind frame of building up schools not where people live, but at school facilities where people work," she said.

Lawmakers say 30 pop-up preschools could open right now with about 10 around Waianae High School.

The idea for universal preschool is already supported by the governor, Senate and House.

State Sen. Ron Kouchi says lawmakers are focused on putting more money into the pockets of working families and getting their child a better educational foundation.

“We are also addressing a cost item if they are paying for child care,” he said.

Gov. David Ige is confident it can be done even in the middle of a teacher shortage.

“What is it that we can do in a way that allows us to train or indentify qualified teachers so we can expand the Pre-K program at a much much more accelerated rate,” said Ige.

Lawmakers didn’t say how pop-up preschools would be funded, but they did say they would rely on public-private partnerships.

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