Updated: October 2, 2023
A bill to expand access to preschool has passed unanimously by House and Senate conferees.
HB961 increases early learning opportunities and financial assistance through the Preschool Open Doors program and the state’s Executive Office on Early Learning.
The measure is a key component to the Ready Keiki initiative led by Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke to expand access to preschool for all of Hawaiʻi 3- and 4-year-olds by 2032.
Along with HB961, $38.8 million was added for Preschool Open Doors in a final version of the state budget bill.
The funding will allow Preschool Open Doors to expand their subsidy eligibility to include 3-year-olds beginning Aug. 2024.
Lt. Gov. Luke has been a strong supporter of the measure, working closely with early childcare and education advocates to increase financial assistance for families and expand early learning opportunities for Hawaiʻi’s youngest learners.
“Ready Keiki is a way to reimagine education in our state and expand access so that all local families have the opportunity to benefit from early learning,” said Luke in a news release. “All the momentum building now would not be possible without the decades of hard work from the early learning and childcare community in Hawaiʻi.”
State officials say currently, there are more than 9,000 underserved 3- and 4-year-olds in Hawaiʻi. Families and working parents wishing to enroll their children in public or private preschool will now have more program options and increased financial support.
Before voting on final passage by the committee, Representative John Mizuno who chairs the
House Committee on Human Services said, “HB961 is probably the biggest bill that we’re passing for the entire legislative session for 2023.
Mizuno added, “Not only is this an investment in people and our children, it’s an investment in the economy and it’s great for education. I’m very honored to be a part of something that’s so historic.”
HB961 CD1 will be up for a final vote on the floor in both House and Senate chambers before being transmitted to the Governor for passage.