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The Power of Preschool — A Special Publication by The Good Beginnings Alliance

(page 5 of 8)

Everyone is a Stakeholder

Photo: Office of Sen. Jill Tokuda

Sen. Jill Tokuda

State Senator and mother of two preschoolers

Our work this year on Senate Bill 2545 (SB2545), which was signed into law this summer, puts Hawaii on the path to joining 39 other states in educating the youngest keiki. SB2545 calls for a plan to provide early learning opportunities for our state’s 4-year olds.

What we know as parents, and what research finds is clear: Access to developmentally and age-appropriate educational opportunities provided by effective professionals makes a difference for children immediately, as they enter kindergarten, and throughout their lives. However, for decades, children’s early learning opportunities have depended on their families’ ability to afford private preschool, and only about half of children go to preschool or other early education programs.

Preparing all children for success in college, careers and life must be a shared responsibility between government, the private sector, parents and the community as a whole. Now is time for the state to partner with families and the private sector to ensure that more of our keiki have quality early learning opportunities. As a society, we will reap the benefits of an educated, career-ready workforce.

Hawaii is a community that cares about all of our children, and Hawaii must become a leader in early learning and child development. The key to implementing this system effectively depends on ensuring affordable access to high-quality early learning opportunities. While the plan resulting from SB2545 is only a first step, it is an important step in making early learning opportunities a reality for all our keiki.

To contact Sen. Tokuda: www.jilltokuda.com/

Photo: Office of Rep. Roy Takumi

 

Rep. Roy Takumi

State Representative and grandpa of a preschooler

Some years ago, my grandson Isaiah was your typical 3-year-old growing up in Hawaii. However, he didn’t realize how lucky he was for two reasons. First, he attended preschool, unlike more than 40 percent of his peers. (And this percentage is far higher if you calculate the number of children in a high-quality preschool.) Second, as a part-Hawaiian, he qualified for a subsidy from Kamehameha Schools, which defrayed all but $50 of the then-monthly $550 fee. Otherwise, he would have been like the more than 13,000 3- and 4-year-olds in the state who are not in preschool simply because the cost is beyond the reach of their families.

It is imperative that we offer all children the same opportunity as Isaiah had because it makes good educational and economic sense.

Educationally, we know that the first five years of a child’s life are the most critical to development. The research is compelling: Children who attend preschool or other early education programs have better cognitive, verbal and social development skills and enter kindergarten better prepared.

Photo: iStockphoto.com

Economically, investing in human capital yields greater long-term benefits than any tax credit or subsidy that is typically handed out to developers and businesses. A 2004 Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis report concluded investing in early education yielded a return of 16 percent in public benefits. In other words, these programs ultimately prove to save money in the long run from a reduction in crime and welfare payments and an increase in economic productivity.

We look forward to working with all the stakeholders in this effort. After all, in the future, school readiness shouldn’t be dependent upon whether children like Isaiah are lucky enough to go to preschool, but whether we are committed to helping all of our children develop their life and learning skills to become better citizens and contributing members of society.

 To contact Rep. Takumi: www.reptakumi.com/

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