States Take Action: Hawaii


In Hawaii, 835 children under the age of three are served by Early Head Start, and 9 percent of 3-year-olds and 13 percent of 4-year-olds are served through federal Head Start and special education preschool.  However, until this year’s legislative session, the state did not fund a state-run pre-K program. Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $12,473. Governor Neil Abercrombie has been a vocal advocate for better preparing children in Hawaii for kindergarten by funding a pre-K program and making kindergarten mandatory for the first time.

  • What the governor is saying: In his State of the State address, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said, There is no more critical issue before us than early childhood development and education. I look forward to strengthening relationships with the private and nonprofit sectors by the passage of the constitutional amendment to provide for partnerships in early education.” To start, the governor this year has signed a bill that makes kindergarten mandatory for children who will be at least five on or before July 31 of the school year. Additionally, he has expressed interest ensuring that pre-K is available in 32 classrooms on 30 DOE elementary school campuses across the state. 
  • What’s happening in the legislature: Early childhood advocates and Gov. Abercrombie have praised the state legislature for the expansion of the Preschool Open Doors program in their last session. This year, the legislature passed a state budget which includes $3 million in funding to establish a pre-k program. Hawaii state Sen. Jill Tokuda praised the progress and stated that “Hawaii will finally come out of the shadows and join 41 other states that publicly fund pre-kindergarten education.” She also expressed that $3 million was just the start. In November 2014, Hawaii voters will have a chance to approve a constitutional amendment that will allow the state to partner with private providers to further expand access to preschool.
  • What advocates are saying: In March 2014, early learning advocates in Hawaii, including Gov. Neil Abercrombie, rallied at the state Capitol to push lawmakers to increase funding for Family Child Interaction Learning programs, where a parent or caregiver attends with their child, and other pre-K efforts.