Chair Kidani, Vice-Chair Harimoto, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports the intent of SB 844, which seeks to establish a developmentally appropriate early childhood education experience for Hawaii’s children and their families. We would like to offer the following suggestions for your consideration:
1. While SB 844 does not specify a "rigorous long-term study" one of the most well-known and often cited is the Perry Preschool Project conducted from 1962 to 1967, and used by James Heckman to analyze the economic benefits in social costs savings. The outcomes of the program were favorable in scholastic, cognitive, health, socioeconomic (longitudinal studies showed participants were half as likely to receive welfare and were twice as likely to be employed as nonparticipants), social costs (fewer arrests, and those arrests were for nonviolent crimes). But the program cannot be considered replicable or valid for Hawaii
because the teacher/student ratio in the Perry Preschool Program was very low, with one teacher for every 5.7 students. The teachers who staffed the program were certified to teach in elementary, early childhood or special education. And they made home visits once per week. In addition, the program did not ’teach’ predefined lessons but instead, teachers listen closely to what children plan and then actively work with them to extend their activities to developmentally appropriate experiences. So instead of the direct instruction in specific content areas; e.g., mathematics, science, and reading with assessment,
suggested by SB 844, the Perry Preschool Project was based on child development, family engagement and a hands-on curriculum. The League of Women Voters strongly feels that a child centered, developmentally appropriate education, that does not use standard assessments on this early age-group would be the most equitable program for this age-group.
2. Concerning the issue of "continual professional development" mentioned on page 8 of SB 844: teacher licensing in Hawaii includes a PK-3 certification. This is the certification that should be required for teacher placement in the early grades (Kindergarten to third grade), and should be the certification for teacher licensure for pre-K grades in Hawaii’s public schools as well. Currently, any teacher with an elementary education degree can teach in the kindergarten through third grades. Because of this placement policy, any teacher having spent his or her career in the upper elementary grades such as 5th or 6th grade, and
having seniority, can ’bump’ a qualified ECE PK-3 endorsed teacher and spend the final years teaching kindergarten, regardless of whether one has experience with this age group and the special knowledge required to teach this age group. This bill should include that the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board limit licensing for Pre-K - 3 classrooms to teachers holding this certification. The Legislature should support offering free tuition for elementary teachers who wish to gain the additional 15 to 18 credit hours it would take to gain the credits necessary for Pre-K - 3 certification.
3. Finally, the League does not find it equitable to focus on "underserved or at-risk children" (see page 19, line 12). In Hawaii at-risk is defined by whether the child is being raised by a single parent, with low income, and often of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Island ethnicity. We cannot argue that these children ’do not need’ a quality pre-school education. However, equity, using public funding, should apply equally to all socio economic strata.
We applaud your work in this critically important area to move our state forward in the area of educating our youngest population. We urge you to consider our suggestions. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.