The Power of Preschool — A Special Publication by The Good Beginnings Alliance
(page 8 of 8)
Investing in Pre-K
Business leaders reinforce the long-term benefit of early childhood education for Hawaii’s keiki
By David Putnam
Gaps in knowledge and skills, according to myriad studies on early childhood learning, develop within the first five years of life. To overcome that, 39 states today are investing in preschools because they realize that preparing children for formal education in the early years can give them a leg up once they enter kindergarten.
And, in the long-term, it’s a good business decision.
“The importance of early childhood education and the effort to afford more families the opportunity to send their children to preschool cannot be understated,” says Randy Perreira, executive director of HGEA. “It is imperative that our state provides the resources to make preschool more accessible to all. The benefits will include a better prepared workforce with the skills necessary to compete in an evolving job market.”
Hawaii is among the 11 states without a state-funded preschool program. Business leaders have begun to advocate for a state-supported prekindergarten program so that all 4-year-olds have access to early education.
“The majority of efforts for social programs to improve our community is focused on reactionary measures. Issues dealing with the homeless, drug addiction rehabilitation, kupuna needs, etc., are all needed aspects of what we do every day, but again, reactionary,” says Keith Vieira, senior vice president of operations for Starwood Hotels. “From a business community perspective, we need to be more ‘proactive’ in dealing with future problems in our state. I can think of no more proactive measure than giving children the early educational foundation needed to be successful in school, and therefore in life.”
Gary K. Kai, executive director of Hawaii Business Roundtable, agrees.
“Early childhood education prepares our children for their entire academic life as well as their lives as contributing members of our community,” says Kai. “Investing in education is the key to creating a community of well-educated and trained employees. It is better for businesses, it is better for all of our citizens, regardless of whether they have children, and it is better for our entire community.”
Efforts throughout the state to gain support for a preschool program can benefit in many ways from business perspectives – and participation. For the business community, the payoff of investing in 4-year-olds now is having in place a driver of future economic competitiveness as well as more productive workers years down the road.
“Focusing on early education for our youngest children is about our future,” Kai says. “The long-range benefits for employers include increasing the vibrancy of our community. Businesses and employees that can compete globally contribute to a more diverse and stronger economy. A strong economy means more customers and more jobs.”
Offering early childhood education also is crucial for Hawaii’s efforts to keep its future leaders at home rather than looking for opportunities on the Mainland, Vieira says.
“For the students attending college here and trying to decide where they will spend their future, we want to keep those talented individuals here. And they recognize the need for their children to get quality preschool education in Hawaii. For those who do go away and want to return to their aina to work and raise a family, they recognize Hawaii needs to have a quality education system that starts with early education for their children, which is of crucial importance to them,” Vieira says.
“We are at a pivotal moment,” Perreira says. “Without making the commitment and securing funding for universal access to early childhood education, we risk not having a sufficiently prepared workforce for the future. Now is the time to make early childhood education a reality for all.”
Photo: HGEA Offices
“As our job market evolves … we need individuals who are better prepared to take on the jobs of the future – ranging from occupations that require more high-tech skills to more traditional occupations, such as carpenters and electricians.”
– Randy Perreira, HGEA President of Hawaii State AFL-CIO
Photo: Starwood Hotels
“Early education is the key, and will build better communities, better businesses, more successful families and help prevent future problems.”
– Keith Vieira, Starwood Hotels
Photo: Hawaii Business Roundtable
“The long-range benefits to the business sector are very straightforward. For a business to survive it must continue to have better educated and trained employees.”
– Gary Kai, Hawaii Business Roundtable
How do we get there?
Good Beginnings Alliance is urging legislators to fund access to preschool for all 4-year-olds in Hawaii. Here are FOUR ways you can help make that happen:
Step up, Sign up: Visit the BeMyVoiceHawaii.org website and sign-up to stay informed about legislation and events related to the statewide preschool plan. Like the Be My Voice! Hawaii on Facebook and follow the campaign on Twitter too. Stay up-to-date and share what you think of the preschool plan.
Contact your lawmakers: The election is over and now it’s time to tell your legislator that preschool for all Hawaii 4-year-olds is a priority for you and should be a priority for them! Visit the Be My Voice Hawaii website and send an email to your legislator.
Be a big voice: Talk to your friends and family. Get more people involved, whether they have 4-year-olds or not.
Donate: Your contribution will help GBA advocate for better early childhood programs for our state.
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