Should public funding go to private preschools?
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Everyone agrees all 4 year olds would benefit from preschool. But, should public funding go to private preschools?
Hawaii is the only state that doesn't allow it.
Voters are being asked to change the law with a constitutional amendment. We polled people in July. 54 percent said they would vote yes, 40 said no, and 6 didn't know.
That's why you can expect campaigning from both sides leading up to a big education vote.
The official campaign launch included "sign waving" of fans that said "Yes on 4."
"Do we make sure that our youngest start kindergarten ready to learn" asked State Senator Jill Okuda, at the kickoff rally.
Her 4 year old son Aden is a student at the Seagull Schools Early Learning Center downtown, the backdrop for today's kickoff rally.
"These are the lucky children" said former Kamehameha Schools CEO Dee Jay Mailer. "Half of the children out there aren't here and those are the ones we're fighting for."
Good Beginnings Alliance Executive Director Deborah Zysman said, "We're proud Good Beginnings secured 3 mill for DOE to launch 18 new preschool classes on campuses. That's great. But those 18 classrooms are only serving 420 kids. We have 17 thousand children across the state."
Zysman added, "If you want to see expanded preschool access for our kids, vote yes on 4 because it is a little bit confusing."
"Our position is to vote No" said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe.
HSTA believes it would cost taxpayers 125 million a year and wouldn't cover entire tuitions. Okabe said "in a society where parents are working two jobs, the most neediest will not be able to afford to go to school. Every community has a school, elementary school. We believe the department can absorb these students into the system."
Okabe cites the presence of public schools in lower income neighborhoods, where there are fewer private preschools.
"I think we fully agree with HSTA on that point" said KCAA Preschools of Hawaii President Christina Cox. "I believe the best option for all of us is a mixed delivery system that leverages all resources."
Executive Office on Early Learning Director GG Weisenfeld explained, "If it passes, it doesn't mean money goes away from DOE so we'd be able to have funds for the public schools that can accommodate it and private providers if there's no room in public schools."
Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii President/CEO Sherry Menor-Mcnamara says it's a smart investment, adding "For one dollar invested, there's a 4 dollar return. Studies have shown it lowers the cost in the future as well as enhances economic growth."
Now, the challenge for both sides will be to educate and sway voters before November.
An important tidbit all voters should know. A blank ballot counts as a "no" vote.
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