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Hawaii Keiki Caucus Sets Priorities in 2017 Legislative Package

Expanding the eligibility age for children to attend the preschool open doors program, support for teacher training on social and emotional learning, and funding to establish an after-school program for public middle and intermediate schools are just some of the measures included in this year’s Keiki Caucus Legislative Package.

Photo courtesy: House Communications

“These bills and resolutions address a variety of issues that assure Hawai‘i’s children and their families are happy, healthy and ready to learn and to succeed,” said Sen. Karl Rhoads (S Dist. 13 – Dowsett Highlands, Pu‘unui, Nu‘uanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Punchbowl, Palama, Liliha, Iwilei, Chinatown, and Downtown). “The work we do together as a caucus is an investment in our future.”

Sen. Rhoads and Rep. Matt LoPresti are this year’s co-conveners of the Keiki Caucus. Keiki Caucus is a bipartisan group of House and Senate members and is supported by dozens of community advocates. Since 1994, the Keiki Caucus has been working with the community to develop proposals and initiatives that address the health and well-being of Hawai‘i’s youth.

“There is nothing more important in Hawaii than our keiki. As lawmakers, we need to do everything we can to protect and educate them,” said Rep. LoPresti (H Dist. 41 -‘Ewa, ‘Ewa Beach, ‘Ewa Gentry, ‘Ewa Villages, Hoakalei, Ocean Pointe). “This proposed legislation is thoughtful and proactive in reaching that goal. It’s never too early for social and emotional learning and anti-bullying education for our keiki – especially when children may be confused by current online rhetoric. They need better role models and we in the legislature can provide support to provide anti-bullying education this legislative session.

The Senate and House bills and resolutions submitted by the Keiki Caucus for the 2017 session include:

SB497/HB578  RELATING TO PRESCHOOL OPEN DOORS PROGRAM

Expands the qualifying age for the preschool open doors program to children four years old and younger.

SB 498/HB580  RELATING TO EDUCATION

Appropriates funds for the P4C Program of the University of Hawai‘i Uehiro Academy for Philosophy and Ethics in Education and for teachers of the Department of Education to train with the P4C Program.

SB496/HB579  RELATING TO SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Requires the Department of Education to provide training on social and emotional learning to all youth-serving educators, health care professionals and counselors, and agencies and programs, as well as parents of students enrolled in public schools or public charter schools.  Appropriates funds to the Department of Education to conduct training on social and emotional learning.

SB499/HB581  RELATING TO THE ZERO TO THREE COURT

Appropriates funds for staff positions and various services to support the Hawai‘i zero to three court.

SB500  RELATING TO AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS

Establishes the R.E.A.C.H (resources for enrichment, athletics, culture, and health) program in the office of youth services to provide a standardized framework and funding for after-school programs in public middle and intermediate schools. Establishes that the R.E.A.C.H. program will be run by a program specialist to be appointed by the governor. Establishes a special fund to receive fees and other moneys to supplement the costs of administering and operating the R.E.A.C.H. program. Requires the office of youth services to report to the legislature.

HB577  RELATING TO A NON-BINDING REFERENDUM ON STATEWIDE COMMUNITY WATER FLUORIDATION

Proposes a non-binding, statewide referendum on whether the State should pursue policies and programs for community water fluoridation in order to improve the overall dental health of Hawaii’s children and adults.

SCR8/HCR11  ENCOURAGING THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES MED-QUEST DIVISION TO IMPLEMENT AN INCOME DISREGARD PROGRAM FOR WORKERS WITH DISABILITIES

The Med-QUEST Division of the Department of Human Services is encouraged to implement an income disregard program that will enable workers with disabilities to seek or maintain employment, while also retaining necessary Medicaid benefits and supports.

SCR9/HCR9  URGING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO CARRY ON ITS WORK TO BETTER ENGAGE COMMUNITY GROUPS IN THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN HAWAI‘I’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Department of Education is urged to carry on its work to better engage community groups in the education of children and youth in Hawai‘i’s public schools.

SCR10/HCR8  REQUESTING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION EDUCATION TASK FORCE

The Department of Education is requested to establish a Sexual Abuse Prevention Education Task Force.

SCR11/HCR10  ENCOURAGING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, AND JUDICIARY TO PERMANENTLY ESTABLISH AND ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION IN THE HAWAI‘I INTERAGENCY STATE YOUTH NETWORK OF CARE TO BETTER SERVE YOUTH AND FAMILIES WITH COMPLEX NEEDS IN THE STATE

The Department of Education, Department of Health and Department of Human Services are encouraged to form the Hawai‘i Interagency State Youth Network of Care (HISYNC) to increase collaboration among state agencies and to develop a system of care for children, youth and families.

SCR12/HCR7  URGING THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES TO EXAMINE THE APPLICATION PROCESS FOR THE PRESCHOOL OPEN DOORS PROGRAM TO ENSURE ACCESSIBILITY FOR ALL FAMILIES

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is urged to examine the application process for the preschool open doors program to ensure accessibility for all families. DHS is also encouraged to consider a paperless or other, cost-free application process that is accessible for all families.

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