POSTED: 9:55 a.m. HST, Jan 9, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 3:51 p.m. HST, Jan 9, 2014
About 640 children from low-income families across the state will be eligible to enroll in free pre-kindergarten classes next year at 30 public school campuses that were announced this morning by the state's Executive Office on Early Learning and the Department of Education.
The plan is contingent on $4.5 million in state funding that the Legislature has yet to take up.
The money would establish 32 classrooms offering free pre-kindergarten classes (public schools can't charge tuition) for children who qualify geographically and income wise. The income guidelines to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch will be used, meaning a family of four cannot earn more than $50,117 to qualify.
Half the schools would be on neighbor islands. The list of participating schools includes 15 on Oahu; one each on Maui, Molokai and Lanai; 10 on Hawaii island, and two on Kauai. The sites were announced at a press conference with Gov. Neil Abercrombie this morning at Princess Victoria Kaiulani Elementary in Kalihi, one of the Oahu schools expected to participate.
Officials said schools were chosen based on community needs, available facilities, Title 1 status (where 35 percent or more of students qualify for free or reduced lunch -- a key indicator of poverty), and support from principals.
The plan is part of Abercrombie's push for universal state-funded preschool. Hawaii is one of 11 states without public preschool.
"Our future plans for Hawaii's comprehensive early learning system involve both public and private preschools," Abercrombie said. "We have been waiting for this opportunity. This prekindergarten program, across DOE schools statewide, is part of the public portion of the early learning system."
At a budget briefing Monday, some lawmakers questioned the timing of announcing school sites before the Legislature has approved any funding. Abercrombie says he's confident lawmakers will make the investment.
The 30 schools set to receive pre-kindergarten classes:
Hana High & Elementary
Lanai High & Elementary
Kau High & Pahala Elementary
Mountain View Elementary