Chair Tokuda, Vice-Chair Kidani and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters Hawaii opposes SB2768. Everyone agrees with the concept of a good early childhood education. However, integral to a good early education experience is having qualified teachers in the early education classroom. SB2768, which makes kindergarten attendance mandatory for Hawaii's children beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, is problematic on several levels.
First, mandatory kindergarten for Hawaii's five year old population should only be considered when each child has the opportunity to be taught by a teacher having a PK-3 license for a public school teacher and an appropriate education degree or coursework for private school teachers. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), founded by early childhood education professionals, has listed a set of criteria for coursework that consists of developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) for this youngest age group. The PK-3 license is gained after having such DAP early childhood courses from an accredited post-secondary education program, and passing the PK-3 praxis.
Second, data collected from a 2008 survey of Hawaii public school kindergarten teachers indicates that 73.8% of teachers surveyed had no early childhood education qualifications (DOE/ELC, 20211). If kindergarten becomes mandatory for all five year olds in Hawaii, the kindergarten population will increase significantly. Children will be mandated to attend a classroom with a very real possibility of being taught in what for most will be their first formal education experience by a teacher who has no previous classroom experience with children at this youngest level - or has had no early childhood education coursework.
Third, the League believes that all children are entitled to an equitable education. It is problematic to LWV Hawaii that an increased pool of children will potentially attend kindergarten in Hawaii's public and private schools without the assurance of a fully qualified early childhood education teacher for this youngest age group.
We respectfully request that the Legislature reconsider the idea of mandatory kindergarten for five year olds until the fully qualified and PK-3 licensed kindergarten teacher workforce increases adequately.