Chair Takumi, Vice Chair Belatti, and Members of the Committee on Education, and
Chair Mizuno, Vice Chair Belatti, and Members of the Committee on Human Services
My name is Valere McFarland and I am Education Chair for the League of Women Voters – Hawaii. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on behalf of our members throughout Hawaii. The League respectfully submits the following input for your consideration with regard to the Junior Kindergarten program. 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.
HB 1683 provides an end date of the 2013-2014 school year for the Junior Kindergarten program established in 2004. We are concerned about the lack of any language in this bill that would provide a dedicated funding stream for the approximately 6,000 late born five year olds who would have been eligible for the Junior Kindergarten program. Families who had planned for their children to participate in the Junior Kindergarten program will now have to make alternative arrangements. And because of the difficult economic climate we have in Hawaii, with more than 50% of these families living in poverty, their choices may be limited to caretaking by friends or relatives. Thus, for an entire cohort of late born five year old children, the opportunity to receive a quality early childhood education is extremely limited.
The League of Women urges you to rededicate the funds now allocated to the Junior Kindergarten program to the four-year-old programs for this group of young children, beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on HB 1683.