HONOLULU (KHON2) — Public education has not always been available for the masses. Historically, only the wealthy could afford for their children to be educated, which entrenched the lower classes in a system that had no way out.

The founding fathers believed that the only way to preserve their new democratic republic was to ensure that the population could understand political and social issues and would participate in civic life, vote wisely, protect their rights and freedoms and resist tyrants and demagogues.

Get Hawaii’s latest morning news delivered to your inbox, sign up for News 2 You

This led them to provide free lands to each state that joined the U.S. with the promise that the state would use a portion of the land to create public schools.

It was not until the 1830s that the U.S. began to formulate what a public education is. New universities known as normal schools were established to educate teachers and disperse them throughout the U.S.

But, it was not until 1938 when the U.S. finally made a law to protect children from labor exploitation and abuse that public education became an institution.

As we enter into 2023, Hawai’i Lt. Governor is making the education a keiki a priority again.

Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke unveiled her Ready Keiki plan. The goal of this is to create 80 new preschool classrooms by August 2024 and 465 new classrooms by 2032. The program will focus on keiki ages three and four.

The new program intends to increase the number of classrooms and provider subsidies that will expand access to children from lower-income households. It intends to develop educational partnerships that will train new teachers and assistants.

“Access to preschool is a social justice issue for Hawai’i,” said Lt. Gov. Luke. “Children who have attended high-quality preschool or child care programs are much better prepared for success in Kindergarten, but not every family has access to early learning programs. If we can provide enough classrooms at an affordable price, we can make sure all of our keiki are ready to learn.”

The Legislature set aside $200 million to seed a plan that will expand access to pre-Kindergarten aged children in 2022.

“We will use that $200 million appropriated last year to build or refurbish 80 classrooms before the start of the 2024 school year,” Luke explained. “There is also capacity in the state’s Preschool Open Doors program, and so we will also be asking the state Legislature to expand that program to include 3-year-olds, and allocate $40 million to increase private provider subsidies to support expanded access to lower-income families.”

Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8

“Knowing that classrooms need teachers and teacher assistants, we intend to develop programs to educate and train early education teachers,” Luke continued. “Those will be important initiatives in the 2024-2032 timeframe, along with building out an additional 50 classrooms per year.”