Governor Abercrombie Signs School Readiness Bill

Names New Early Learning Director for Implementation Phase

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed Senate Bill 1093, a significant first step to transform early education in Hawaii and ensure that all island keiki have access to preschool.

Governor Abercrombie Signs School Readiness Bill Names New Early Learning Director for Implementation Phase

Governor Abercrombie Signs School Readiness Bill
Names New Early Learning Director for Implementation Phase

“In my 2013 State of the State, I described any failure to address early learning development as one of our state’s greatest unfunded liabilities; this bill breaks from the status quo and provides our first down payment on ensuring Hawaii’s keiki are prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “No other piece of legislation this year was more important. I firmly believe that giving keiki a strong early childhood education foundation is the best, most effective way to empower their success in life.”

Gov. Abercrombie also announced the appointment of GG Weisenfed, Ed.D, as director of the Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL). Weisenfeld will take over for Terry Lock, the state’s former early childhood coordinator who the Governor appointed as director when the office was first established. Lock has accepted a position with the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Education, where she will focus on the professional and leadership development of current and future early childhood educators.

“Terry joined my administration in 2011 and has been a steadfast leader for our youngest citizens,” the Governor said. “She and her team have made significant progress and established a strong foundation for early learning and development in Hawaii, including completing the strategic plan ‘Taking Action for Hawaii’s Children.’ As we enter this next phase of implementation, it means a great deal to me that Terry recommended GG to lead our efforts forward.”

A key component of the Governor’s legislative package, SB1093 (enacted as Act 151) establishes the Preschool Open Doors Program as the statewide school readiness program administered by the state Department of Human Services. The new voluntary program will provide access to school readiness services that address children’s physical, cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional development. The program will serve 4-year-old children, with priority extended to underserved or at-risk keiki, and those who are not eligible to attend public school kindergarten in the school year they turn 5 because their birth date occurs after the kindergarten eligibility date.

The bill also requires each provider to conduct school readiness assessments, give priority to children from low- and moderate-income families, and prepare children for school through either English or Hawaiian language.

The measure includes appropriations of $720,000 in fiscal year 2013 and $440,000 in fiscal year 2014 to fund three temporary positions and contract services, as well as an additional $6 million for program subsidies in fiscal year 2014.

About the New Director
Weisenfeld was most recently the director of the Hawaii P-3 Initiative at the University of Hawaii, where she aligned policies and programs between the early childhood community and the state Department of Education through researching and leading the development of the Hawaii’s Early Learning and Development Standards (HELDS). As an early childhood research specialist at the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii, Weisenfeld facilitated the creation of a research-based design and implementation plan for a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for early childhood programs in Hawaii.

Weisenfeld has established herself as a champion of early learning, publishing numerous works on the issue. She honed her skills in New York’s early education system and has served in positions ranging from early childhood classroom teacher, to director of childhood services (including Head Start and Early Head Start), to assistant professor of education.

Governor Abercrombie Unveils Early Childhood Action Strategy

The state’s early childhood action strategy, “Taking Action for Hawaii’s Children,”was released today by Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Terry Lock, director of the Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL).  The strategy focuses on improving health, development, and learning experiences and outcomes of Hawaii’s youngest children, prenatal to age eight.

abercrombieheader

“We have a clear vision of providing our children with a safe, healthy, and successful start in life,”said Gov. Abercrombie.  “The action strategy prioritizes the benefits of early childhood development by recommending key partnerships and identifying desired outcomes to prepare our keiki for success.”

The action strategy outlines six main goals to achieve the overarching outcomes identified for Hawaii’s keiki, which include health and development, family support, access to available providers, kindergarten readiness, and learning proficiency by third grade.

“Our plan is inspired by a national, research-based framework that also considers the unique cultures and diversity throughout the state,”said EOEL Director Lock.  “This action strategy is intentionally outcomes-driven, and will help to create conditions of well-being for families and children so our young ones can meet their full potential.”

A critical component is engaging and supporting families, so they can be supportive of their young children.  Relationships between families, practitioners, and providers are key elements in implementing an effective early childhood program.

EOEL recruited teams representing public and private health, safety, and early care and education sectors that worked together since July 2012 to develop the strategies and identify the actions necessary to complete them.  To date, more than 100 individuals have been involved in this initiative.

Early childhood is a key cornerstone of Gov. Abercrombie’s New Day Plan.  An investment in establishing a solid foundation for the health, development, and education of the state’s youngest children is an investment in Hawaii’s social and economic future.

To view the action strategy or to learn more, visit the EOEL website at http://earlylearning.hawaii.gov.

 

Governor Abercrombie Outlines School Readiness Program and Budget Needs

The State of Hawaii is committed to giving its keiki the best opportunity for school success and a strong early childhood education program is a proven way toward that, Gov. Neil Abercrombie affirmed at a press conference today at Seagull School’s Early Education Center.

abercrombieheaderThrough the Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL), a comprehensive and methodical approach is under way to get the first phase of a high-quality state-funded program in place by school year 2014-15.

“Education is a top priority for my administration,”Gov. Abercrombie said. “I’m pleased to say that the Executive Office on Early Learning, under the direction of Director Terry Lock, is carrying out my mandate for a comprehensive program, which will meet or exceed the best in the nation.”

The Abercrombie Administration has included $32.5 million for EOEL in the biennium budget for a school readiness program. In the first year, $3.5 million would be for critical planning and program development. In the second year, $28.9 million would support school readiness opportunities for about 3,500 4-year-olds who would not be eligible for kindergarten due to a new birthdate cutoff of July 31, starting in 2014. Eventually, the goal is a statewide early childhood education program for more 4-year-olds.

The school readiness program is part of the Hawaii Early Childhood Action Strategy — “Taking Action for Hawaii’s Children”–that EOEL is developing to help shape the state’s policy agenda on behalf of children. The action strategy also includes goals for health and development of children, support for families, and continuity in early childhood experiences. “We are focusing on understanding what the current early childhood development and learning conditions are and identifying how they can be improved,”said Gov. Abercrombie.

“Now that the action strategy is defined and we have the developmental milestones outlined in the Hawaii Early Learning and Development Standards (HELDS), we have identified the best outcomes-based criteria for children to be used in the school readiness program,”Lock said. “The HELDS provide age and stage expectations for children, birth through kindergarten.”

To learn more about the state’s school readiness program, visit: http://earlylearning.hawaii.gov/

 

 

Congressional Candidate Bob Marx On Early Childhood Education

Bob Marx calls on Congress to increase funding for early childhood education immediately so that we create a brighter future for the next generation of Americans.

Congressional Candidate Bob Marx

Speaking to a group of Big Island residents today, Marx stated: “The time is now to invest in early childhood education. We cannot afford to wait any longer. The state of our education system here in Hawai‘i is in shambles – our schools fall far below the national average, and many are below developing countries like Singapore. Less than half of our keiki entering kindergarten is prepared for elementary school, mostly due to not attending preschool.”

There have been dramatic cuts in preschool and pre-K programs nationwide. The results of these cuts have been especially devastating in Hawai‘i: 1 in 3 of our third grade students cannot read. “The problem is that we are on the wrong side of trying to solve the problem at the third grade level – when what we should be doing is investing in preventative measures like early education,” Marx stated.

Recent statistics show that for every $1 spent on early education there is a $4.20 return on that investment in taxpayer savings by reducing the amount of spending on social welfare services. Hawai‘i spends $16,520 per student per year to attend public schools versus $46,720 per person per year to house our prisoners. Long term studies show the quality early education leads to reduced crime, promotion of the importance of education, resulting in a more skilled workforce. The annual rate of return nears 10% on every dollar spent on early education.

“We need to start investing in young children. We can do this by making sure there is sufficient funding to train more teachers,” Marx added. “We need to stimulate this struggling economy, but we need to invest in the things that matter, in the things that will have a long-term benefit for our ’Ohana. Pouring millions into infrastructure, like fixing roads and potholes is a great way to create new jobs in the short-term. But what happens when the roads are fixed and the potholes are filled? What kind of return on that investment do we get? I can tell you that the return is nowhere near the return we will see if those same dollars are spent on early education,” Marx stressed.

“Very young children are some of the most underrepresented sector of our population. Did you know that 85% of the human brain develops before the age of 5? Children’s brains are much more active than adult brains – in children ages 3 to 10, brain function is 2 ½ times that of an adult. Studies show that poor experiences as a young child lead to devastating effects later in life, including unhealthy relationships, poor dietary habits and the inability to hold a job,” Marx continued.

Our state spends three times as much money housing prisoners than it does on education for our children: $46,720/year vs. $16,520/year. Nationally, the Federal Government spends 8 times more money on Defense than on Education. Instead of spending $1 million on one bomb, that same money could be spent on paying 25 teacher’s salaries at $40,000/year.

“We need to start investing in human potential now. It cannot wait any longer,” Marx stressed. “People insist that we cannot instill the importance of education in families who don’t put an emphasis on going to school. How can we instill the value of education to parents and grandparents who did not finish high school? We must start by investing in early education.

“Behavior is learned, but if we can instill the importance of educating our children, then we can stop that cycle. Our children are our future, and if we don’t invest in our future now, pretty soon it will be too late. We are at a tipping point. If we don’t act immediately, the long-term effects will be irreversible. If we don’t put in the money now, there will be nothing to cash in on later,” Marx continued.

“The amount of money spent of welfare services: medical assistance, food stamps, welfare subsidies, special education programs, family interventional services, mental health services, and corrections, pales in comparison to what can be saved by investing in our kids. All the millions and millions of dollars we spend annually on these services would be dramatically reduced if those same dollars were invested in educating our children now. Every five hours a child is born into poverty in Hawai‘i. We need to ensure that all of those children have access to a quality education so that they can create a better life for themselves and their families,” Marx concluded.

Bob Marx is a Democratic Candidate for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District, which represents rural Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, and the Big Island