HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By Jade Storms
More than 1,200 children and their families, as well as early education organizations celebrated a day of advancement at the State Capitol rotunda and lawn early Thursday morning to support the bills for early childhood education.
Organizations such as ALU LIKE Inc., Good Beginnings Alliance, INPEACE (Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture), Kamehameha Preschools, Keiki O Ka 'aina Family Learning Centers and Partners in Development Foundation were all there to demonstrate the importance of early learning experiences that included Family Child Interaction Learning (FACIL).
Crystal Kua is the Communications and Fund Development Officer for Good Beginnings Alliance, a non profit organization that helps raise support around early childhood education, family strengthening and health services.
"Today several early learning programs are here to support our keiki," Kua said. "Right now at the legislature there are some very important measures that are before lawmakers, so I think there's a lot of support here not only for individual programs like family child learning interaction, but also a support of having the state be a partner to invest in early learning programs."
Kanoe Naone, the CEO for INPEACE, explained that they wanted to set up the rally as if parents and children were in a real preschool setting.
"We set it up just like any preschool classroom so we had science centers, math centers, puzzles, blocks, snacks, hula, and dramatic play," Naone said. " Eighty-five percent of the brain is developed before age five, and so providing those kind of hands on activities and exploratory activities help children make connections so they get the higher level logic and reasoning skills."
Sen. Maile Shimabukuro explained that while some parents are urging lawmakers to invest in the future of Hawaii's children, the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) is against the bill.
"For HSTA, their reasons are that the Department of Education is really struggling as we all know," Shimabukuro said. "Some children in my district don't have textbooks, and at Waianae High School they don't even have doors in their bathroom stalls. The HSTA is really concerned that precious resources and money will fund private preschools, which is like a voucher program."
Sen. Shimabukuro hopes the bill will be further molded so that it will also support the Department of Education by having an income limit for households, since as of right now, the bill is open to anyone who wants to send their child to preschool.
Sanoe Marfil from Waianae believes that the people who are against the bill are simply not talking to the right people, and therefore it's difficult for them to understand why early childhood education is important to parents.
"As a mother of three daughters I think it's very important to advocate on their behalf for early childhood education," Marfil said. "All three of my daughters have been in early childhood education programs from Keiki Steps to Punanaleo, and so really it gave them that foundation to move forward in their elementary school learning."
The house education committee recently passed out all three early learning measures and were approved with amendments, including the family child interaction learning programs in legislation.
Good Beginnings Alliance will hold another rally and fundraiser on Saturday, March 23. The fundraiser will be held at Wet n' Wild Hawaii in Kapolei and will feature the Oscar-nominated film, Paranorman. For more information and tickets, visit www.BeMyVoiceHawaii.org