I am Janet Mason, Vice-President of the League of Women Voters of Hawai‘i, and I thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of our members throughout Hawai‘i. The League is providing comments only on this bill.
The League of Women Voters-Hawai‘i respectfully offers the following input for your consideration with regard to HB853, which proposes an Amendment to Article X, Section 1 of the Hawai‘i State Constitution to permit the appropriation of public funds for private early childhood education. The League applauds the state of Hawai‘i for working to establish a collaborative public/private four-year old program within an early childhood system that
prepares our children prenatal to age five for success in school and life. One of the key components in such a system will be to give the families of children in this system choice in providing education opportunities for their children.
HB853, if approved by the citizens of Hawai‘i, would fund private schools offering a preschool education. The League has concerns about accountability in a program that funds private schools that have no obligation to the public trust and fulfill no responsibility to the public trust. Thus, we have concerns whether accountability will be achieved in such a system regardless of regulations imposed on participating private schools.
The purpose of the proposed Constitutional Amendment, HB 853, is to provide the pathway for the implementation of HB 864, HD1. And as stated in HB 864, the goal of the early childhood education program is to “align with the state content and performance standards for grades kindergarten to twelve to facilitate a seamless and high-quality
educational experience for children” (HB 864, HD1 Section ~3O2L-2 (e)(2).
HB 864, H.D. 1 proposes that children be individually assessed. Efficiency is implied in a standards driven policy that includes assessment of young children. Developmentally appropriate programs that include literacy and mathematics may not assess for these skills. By definition, these valuable programs would be excluded and the
population of at-risk children to be served by the early childhood education would not be offered these valuable programs. Thus, choice of programs is limited to those that assess. Assessments and curricula both need to be developmentally appropriate. We are also concerned about equity under a program that assesses young children
for literacy and mathematic skills at such a young age. Accountability of public monies is absolutely essential, and ways to ensure ‘accountability’ include providing a developmentally appropriate curriculum, having qualified early childhood education teachers in every classroom, and providing settings that promote student centered learning.
HB 864, H.D.1 excludes children who are enrolled in or eligible for public elementary education (302L(2)(c)(2). TheLeague has long supported equity, quality and choice in education. As such, we have supported charter schools and as such, we support an early childhood education system that includes implementation through the existing charter
school system in Hawai‘i. The current ‘cap’ on charter schools should be lifted to allow the establishment of high quality early childhood education. Including charter schools does not demean the outstanding hard work and accomplishments evident in our state’s private and parochial schools and their potential to offer a quality early childhood education for our keiki. Rather this is an issue of fairness and equity and inclusion of a component of our
public education system.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important issue.