Gov. Ige spotlights education initiative in State of the State address

“I want us to do much more.”

Gov. David Ige pushed Tuesday for an overhaul of Hawaii’s public preschool and elementary school system.

In his State of the State address, the governor said he believes quality education should be available to all families, not just those who can afford private tuition.

“Of all the initiatives upon which we’ve embarked, I believe this one will make the greatest difference in preparing our children for the future and in creating a 21st century workforce,” he said.

Ige called for the creation of a universal, statewide high-quality public preschool system “that will give every child in Hawaii a head-start on learning,” as well as restructuring schools that are currently kindergarten through grade 6 to pre-kindergarten through grade 5.

The change would ultimately add more than 300 public pre-K classrooms and shift sixth-graders to middle school, where Ige said added classes could be more easily and financially accommodated.

“Presently, about half of our elementary schools still include sixth-grade classes—most are located on the neighbor islands, where preschools, both private and public, are lacking. That provides us with a tremendous opportunity to kickstart this effort, initially in communities where they are most needed,” Ige said. “In addition, the phasing in of our public preschools will give us the time to ensure that we have well qualified preschool teachers to staff these classes.”

“We applaud the governor’s goal of increasing public pre-kindergarten for all our students. As teachers, we know that early learning is essential to help children get a good start in school and in life,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee.

Ige also acknowledged the need to expand Hawaii’s pool of teachers in some of the state’s most difficult-to-staff schools, an initiative that HSTA is actively working on in partnership with the state Department of Education, University of Hawaii, and education advocates.