Report: Hawaii’s children need access to high-quality preschool

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According to a report released Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Education, 60 percent of approximately four million 4-year-olds nationwide are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, including state preschool programs, Head Start and programs serving children with disabilities.

In Hawaii, that number balloons to 87 percent.

Of the total 17,536 4-year-olds in the state, none of them are enrolled in state preschool, nine percent are enrolled in federal Head Start programs, and four percent are enrolled in special education preschool services.

The remaining 15,176 4-year-olds are not enrolled in a publicly funded program, making up the 87 percent.

A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America highlights the need for an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that expands access to high-quality early learning opportunities and makes the law preschool through 12th grade, rather than K-12.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussed the report Tuesday during a visit to Martin Luther King Jr. Early Childhood Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

Advances in science and research have proven the important impact that preschool programs can have on children’s learning, but unfortunately too many children still do not have access to these programs.

Children from low-income families are less likely to be enrolled in preschool than their peers – 41 percent compared to 61 percent. All children need access to high-quality preschool to prepare them for kindergarten and to close the opportunity and achievement gaps.

For some children when they enter kindergarten, huge educational gaps exists. Scores on reading and math were lowest for kindergartners in households with incomes below the federal poverty level and highest for those in households with incomes at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Children at risk for academic failure, on average, start kindergarten 12 to 14 months behind their peers in pre-literacy and language skills.

Without access to quality preschool, students of color, and children from low-income families, are far less likely to be prepared to start kindergarten than their peers.

The Obama Administration has asked for an increase of $500 million for Preschool Development Grants in the FY16 budget request to expand this opportunity to more states, the Bureau of Indian Education, tribal educational agencies, territories, and the outlying areas.

Preschool Development Grants support states’ efforts to build or enhance their infrastructure to provide high-quality preschool programs, and expand programs in high-need communities. The $250 million awarded to 18 states will benefit more than 33,000 additional children in 200 high-need communities, where families have little or no access to affordable, high-quality preschool.

With additional funding, the Department could have provided high-quality opportunities for many more children in the 36 states that applied. Of that 36, five states will, however, be awarded development grants, including Hawaii in the amount of $2,074,059. Click here for more information.

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