Hawaii State Funding for Private Early Childhood Education Programs, Amendment 4 (2014)
- 1 Text of the measure
- 2 Background
- 3 Support
- 4 Opposition
- 5 Polls
- 6 Path to the ballot
- 7 See also
- 8 Additional reading
- 9 External links
- 10 References
The Hawaii State Funding for Private Early Childhood Education Programs, Amendment 4 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Hawaii as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure, upon voter approval, would allow the state to spend public funds for the “support or benefit” of private early childhood education programs.
Amendment 4’s supporters and opponents are both calling for an expansion of preschool education. Proponents think the best route is by allocating public funds to private schools, whereas opponents believe the state should establish fully funded preschool through the public education system.
The Hawaiian word “keiki,” which translates to “child,” is often used in place of “child” when speaking English. Both the campaigns in support and against the amendment use the word.
In Hawaii, an amendment must win not just a majority of all votes cast on that particular proposal, but a majority of the vote of everyone voting in that election. This is known as a double majority.
Text of the measure
The official ballot text is as follows:
|“||Shall the appropriation of public funds be permitted for the support or benefit of private early childhood education programs, as provided by law, to help the State meet its goal of providing an early learning system for the children of Hawaii?"||”|
- See also: Article X, Hawaii Constitution
|Section 1. The State shall provide for the establishment, support and control of a statewide system of public schools free from sectarian control, a state university, public libraries and such other educational institutions as may be deemed desirable, including physical facilities therefor. There shall be no discrimination in public educational institutions because of race, religion, sex or ancestry; nor shall public funds be appropriated for the support or benefit of any sectarian or nonsectarian private educational institution, except that public funds may be appropriated for the support or benefit of private early childhood education programs, subject to the non-discrimination provision above, as provided by law, and that proceeds of special purpose revenue bonds authorized or issued under section 12 of Article VII may be appropriated to finance or assist:
- See also: Public education in Hawaii
According to the Hawai'i Education Policy Center, Hawaii is the only state to constitutionally prohibit the funding of private preschools. The other 49 states all permit publicly-funded private preschools, although 12 do not provide funding.
The center estimates that there are approximately 17,500 four-year olds each year in the state. Anywhere between 40 and 48 percent of Kindergarten students did not attend preschool. Conversely, between 52 and 60 percent of those children attended preschool. Nonetheless, Hawaii's preschool enrollment rates are slightly better than the national average.
About 96 percent of all preschools in the state are private, and the average tuition rate is $680 per month. That's $8,160 per year.
Hawaii provides publically-funded vouchers to low-income families through a program called Open Doors. Families use the vouchers to enroll their children at any licensed private preschools. These schools may be religious or non-religious programs. While licensed preschools are regulated for health and safety issues, the state does not regulate their curriculums. Amendment 4, on the other hand, is not a voucher program. Rather, it's a direct payment to preschools. Since the preschools would be publicly funded, the state could regulate their curriculums.
The organization leading the campaign in support of the amendment is Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki. The campaign organization is a project of Good Beginnings Alliance and Children's Action Network.
Supporters contend that the state should provide more funding to private preschool education in order to give young children more access to high-quality education. The public school system is not equipped with the facilities or teachers needed to provide such education, according to amendment proponents.
- Child & Family Service
- Hawaii Association for the Education of Young Children
- Kamehameha Schools
- Hawaii Business Roundtable
- The Community Children’s Councils
- Hawaii State Parent Teacher Student Association
- Special Education Advisory Council
- Harold K.L. Castle Foundation
- Hawaii Association of Independent Schools
- Good Beginnings Alliance
- Children's Action Network
- Hawaii Catholic Conference
Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki provided the following argument in favor of Amendment 4:
|“|| Over the past two years the state legislature and the Governor have focused increasing attention on expanding access to high-quality preschool and early learning experiences for children in our state. Hawaii was, until this summer, one of only ten states not funding a statewide preschool system.
Currently, the state is only funding preschool spaces for approximately 420 children, out of over 17,000 eligible four-year-olds. That means the burden of preschool falls squarely on the shoulders of parents and can run over $800 a month.
We think that’s unacceptable.
The Yes on 4 campaign's goal is to pass ballot question #4 on the 2014 general election ballot. Passing this question would amend our state constitution to allow the legislature (should it choose) to contract with non-profit preschools to offer preschool to four year olds in Hawaii. Participating schools would be required to meet high-quality industry standards, not discriminate based on race, religion, gender, or ancestry, and submit to state oversight.
Voting YES on ballot question #4 provides our state with the flexibility to provide more high-quality preschool to more keiki in years versus decades. Let’s do what’s right and pono – VOTE YES on 4 this coming November! 
—Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki
Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki also supplied four facts to encourage people to vote "yes" on the amendment:
- "90% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of 5."
- "Approximately 42% of keiki in Hawaii have not attended preschool."
- "For every $1 invested in early learning, our state gains $4.20 (2008)."
- "All states that operate state-funded prekindergarten systems contract out to community based providers or preschool so they can reach more children."
Coreen K. Lee, co-owner of Kōnane Consulting Group and former project manager for KCAA Preschools of Hawaii, said the "idea of adding state-funded preschool into our education system seems logical at face value." However, there are "immediate systemic issues" that make this difficult.
... By voting yes to the constitutional amendment, public funding will be accessible to private early childhood education programs through contracts with the new Early Childhood Education program. It would create a working partnership for public-private service delivery, much like existing programs within our state such as programs that serve high need special education students. 
—Coreen K. Lee
Other arguments in support of the amendment include:
- State Representative Roy Takumi (D-35) noted, "If you or a loved one have had the benefit of a preschool education, it was because a private provider gave it to you. For decades, they have shouldered the burden and responsibility of educating our youngest children alone. This constitutional amendment would allow government to step up to the plate and partner with the private sector as we seek to prepare our children to succeed in both school and life."
As of September 10, 2014, supporters have received $505,410 in contributions.
|PAC||Amount raised||Amount spent|
|Good Beginnings Alliance - Children's Action Network||$505,410||$0|
|Pacific Resource Partnership||$5,000|
Opponents argue that the amendment won’t create equal opportunities for all children and will subsidize wealthy private schools. They claim the amendment will take money from public schools. Many are calling for fully funded preschool, but through the state’s public education system.
- Jeanne Marie Iorio, professor of early childhood education at the University of Hawai'i
- Susan Matoba Adler, professor of early childhood education at the University of Hawai'i
The Hawaii State Teachers Association criticized the amendment, saying the funding would hurt the state's neediest families. The association's statement read:
... If approved, the amendment would allow public, taxpayer money to be used to fund private preschools.
Everyone agrees that attending preschool can benefit Hawaii’s children. But don’t be fooled. The amendment will NOT create preschool opportunities for everyone. It will only be a drain on limited public education resources and will not really serve our neediest parents or children.
The amendment would take money from public schools to benefit private preschools.
Hawaii’s neediest families will not benefit.
“…I just think that the plan is not well conceived. There are insufficient private providers. They’re not in the communities that they’re most needed. And the cost is overwhelming” – Senator David Ige, HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER - May 28, 2014
To prevent using your taxpayer money for funding private schools, VOTE NO on November 4.
“The HSTA and Hawaii’s public school teachers want to ensure that all of our children are treated fairly and equitably. And, unfortunately, the Abercrombie Plan does neither.” – Wil Okabe, HSTA president. 
—Hawaii State Teachers Association
Toni Reynolds, an elementary school teacher from Kailua-Kona, called the amendment "ill-conceived." Reynolds elaborated:
|“||As an educator, I appreciate the need for quality preschool experiences for our youngest keik. The Abercrombie plan, however, will not fix the preschool access problem. Besides setting bad precedent — using public taxpayer funds for private education — the ConAm measure on November’s ballot will rob our already limited public school budget; taking education funding that could go to improvements like building repairs, more school supplies or technology updates. Do you wonder why we do not have money for air conditioning or even fans in our classrooms?
Another failing of the Abercrombie preschool plan is that it would not cover the entire cost of private school tuition — again leaving the neediest of our ohana still without affordable preschool.
A better plan would have us pursue pre-kindergarten, fully funded by the state and taught by licensed, well-qualified educators. It may take time to implement pre-K, but there is a clear need in our state for early childhood education that is accessible to all.
If you truly support our public education system, then voters should unite and defeat the constitutional amendment on November’s ballot allowing private voucher preschools. This is not the way to best serve our keiki. 
Jeanne Marie Iorio and Susan Matoba Adler, professors of early childhood education at the University of Hawai’i - West O’ahu, submitted testimony to the legislature opposing Senate Bill 1084. The following is an excerpt from their testimony:
|“||...By turning public education over to private entities, we are reducing education to a commodity up for competitive bid.
This neoliberal agenda is limiting any possibility for equity within early childhood by taking public funds (Kozol, 2007) in order to further a narrow, standardized curriculum and continue high-stakes testing (Hursh, 2007; Kumashiro, 2008; Lipman, 2004). The continued use of fear and crisis by the government and advocacy groups in regard to early childhood is allowing for the privileging of market strategies over public education (Kumashiro, 2008, 2012).
By passing this bill, Hawaii is setting the stage to continue to blame children, families, and teachers for children not being “ready” instead of the inequity enacted across education in the state. Compliance and conformity will be commonplace and equity and democracy will be in the margin and may even disappear.
Further, private programs are not held to a comprehensive holistic care and education curriculum for all children regardless of race, ethnicity, ability, gender, and religion and could be totally academic oriented and not developmentally appropriate. This amendment opens the door to skill training to meet standards and benchmarks. If, in fact, the populations who cannot afford private education (preschool as well as K-3, the parameters of Early Childhood) are low income, minorities and families with children with disabilities, then for equity, these private preschools must accept all students in these categories (regardless of religion, family configuration and sexual orientation of parents).
With the passing of this bill, the definition of “high quality” in terms of early childhood programs is defined through which private schools receive monies. Bills may be written and passed in order to ensure certain private programs receive monies. For example, if one program is willing to comply with a certain list of standards and contribute to the development of data system, then the program can be listed as high quality. Yet, there are a variety of child-centered forms (High Scope, Bank Street, Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia Inspired) with differing philosophies, which may not test and teach discrete skills for literacy and math (using testing of math and pre- reading skills as a metric for success, is inappropriate and narrows the curriculum).
The passing of this bill begins a decline in early childhood education as equity disappears in the name of market and money. 
—Professors Jeanne Marie Iorio and Susan Matoba Adler, 
Other arguments against the amendment include:
- David Ige, the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014, stated, "We should first successfully implement early education programs in our public schools before considering spreading our limited tax dollars to private preschools. The amendment asks voters to approve a preschool program with no details on how much it will cost and how the program will work."
- State Senator Samuel Slom said, "This is not about education. This is about funding a subsidy.”
- Alan Isbell, Waiuku Elementary School Teacher and HSTA representative, argued, “Most public school teachers wholeheartedly support early childhood education, but not for private schools funded by taxpayers. The Hawaii State Teachers Association [is]… unequivocally opposed to any privatization or subcontracting that has the potential to reduce the resources that otherwise would be available to achieve and/or maintain quality public education, or the potential to otherwise negatively affect public education. Such privatization also would allow public funds to be used for religious education or other religious purposes, weakening the wall between church and state.”
- See also: Polls, 2014 ballot measures
|Hawaii Amendment 4 (2014)|
|Poll||Support||Oppose||Undecided||Margin of Error||Sample Size|
2/1/2014 - 2/11/2014
|Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to|
Path to the ballot
|I • II • III • IV • V • VI • VII • VIII • IX • X • XI • XII • XIII • XIV • XV • XVI • XVII • XVIII|
- See also: Amending the Hawaii Constitution
State Senator Donna Mercado Kim (D-14) introduced Senate Bill 1084 into the legislature to alter the constitution and put Amendment 4 before voters on January 24, 2013. SB 1084 was approved through a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers. The bill was approved by the Hawaii Senate and Hawaii House of Representatives on April 30, 2013.
April 30, 2013 Senate vote
|Hawaii SB 1084 Senate Vote|
April 30, 2013 House vote
|Hawaii SB 1084 House Vote|
- 2014 ballot measures
- Hawaii 2014 ballot measures
- Hawaii Legislature
- Public education in Hawaii
- School choice in Hawaii
- Hawaii State Legislature, "SB1084 SD1 HD1 CD1," accessed January 16, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Hawaii State Legislature, "SB 1084 Text,", accessed April 7, 2014
- Hawaii Educational Policy Center, "A Short Voter’s Guide to the Proposed Constitutional Amendment for Early Education Programs," accessed September 19, 2014
- Honolulu Civil Beat, "Should Public Money Be Used for Private Preschools?," September 15, 2014
- Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki, "Homepage," accessed September 10, 2014
- Honolulu Civil Beat, "Voters To Decide If Hawaii Can Use Public Money For Private Preschool," May 1, 2013
- Hawaii Legislature, "Education Committee Testimony on February 1, 2013," accessed August 18, 2014
- Hawaii Catholic Conference, "Support of Amendment To Article X, Section 1, Of The Hawaii State Constitution To Permit The Appropriation Of Public Funds For Private Early Childhood Education Programs," June 13, 2014
- Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki, "Why Yes on 4?," accessed September 10, 2014
- Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki, "Get the Facts," accessed September 10, 2014
- Huffington Post, "Voting Yes for the Constitutional Amendment," September 10, 2014
- Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, "Good Beginnings Alliance - Children's Action Network," accessed September 10, 2014
- Hawaii State Teachers Association, "VOTE “NO” on Giving Public Money to Private Schools," August 21, 2014
- Hawaii Reporter, "Ige Says Education Top Priority If Elected Governor," July 29, 2014
- West Hawaii Today, "Letters | 9-18-14," September 18, 2014
- Hawaii State Teachers Association, "What one teachers says about preschool vouchers and public education," March 8, 2013
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