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Hawaii State Funding for Private Early Childhood Education Programs, Amendment 4 (2014)

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Amendment 4
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Hawaii Constitution
Referred by:Hawaii Legislature
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
2014 measures
Seal of Hawaii.png
November 4
Amendment 1 Approveda
Amendment 2 Approveda
Amendment 3 Defeatedd
Amendment 4 Defeatedd
Amendment 5 Approveda
Local measures

The Hawaii State Funding for Private Early Childhood Education Programs, Amendment 4 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Hawaii as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was defeated. The measure would have allowed the state to spend public funds for the “support or benefit” of private early childhood education programs.[1]

Amendment 4’s supporters and opponents both called for an expansion of preschool education. Proponents thought the best route was to allocate public funds to private schools, whereas opponents believed 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 used the word.

The amendment was sponsored in the Hawaii Legislature by State Senator Donna Mercado Kim (D-14) as Senate Bill 1084.[1]

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.

Election results

Hawaii Amendment 4
Defeatedd No192,24752.02%
Yes 160,238 43.36%

Due to Hawaii's double majority requirements, the amount of total votes in the overall election are used to calculate the percent of "yes" and "no" votes. This may result in the percents for the "yes" and "no" votes adding up to less than 100 percent.

Election results via: Hawaii Secretary of State

Text of the measure

Ballot title

The official ballot text appeared as follows:[1]

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?"[2]

Constitutional changes

See also: Article X, Hawaii Constitution

The measure would have amended Section 1 of Article X of the Constitution of Hawaii to read:[3]

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:
1. Not-for-profit corporations that provide early childhood education and care facilities serving the general public; and
2. Not-for-profit private nonsectarian and sectarian elementary schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities.[2]


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.[4]

The center estimated that there were approximately 17,500 four-year olds each year in the state in 2014. Anywhere between 40 and 48 percent of Kindergarten students did not attend preschool. Conversely, between 52 and 60 percent of those children attended preschool.[4] Nonetheless, Hawaii's preschool enrollment rates, at the time of the report, were slightly better than the national average.[5]

About 96 percent of all preschools in the state were private, and the average tuition rate was $680 per month. That's $8,160 per year.[5]

Hawaii, as of 2014, provides publicly-funded vouchers to low-income families through a program called Open Doors. Families use the vouchers to enroll their children at any licensed private preschool. 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.[4]


Hawaii Yes on 4 2014.png

The organization that led the campaign in support of the amendment was Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki. The campaign organization was a project of Good Beginnings Alliance and Children's Action Network.[6]

Supporters contended 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, argued amendment proponents.

Amendment 4 was introduced into the legislature by Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D-14).[1]




The following state senators voted to place the measure on the ballot:[1]

Note: A yes vote on the measure merely referred the question to voters and did not necessarily mean these legislators approved of the stipulations laid out in Amendment 4.

The following state representatives voted to place the measure on the ballot:[1]

Note: A yes vote on the measure merely referred the question to voters and did not necessarily mean these legislators approved of the stipulations laid out in Amendment 4.

Former officials


  • American Academy of Pediatrics[10]
  • Early Care and Education Consortium
  • Hawaii Association for the Education of Young Children
  • People Attentive to Children (PATCH)
  • ‘Aha Pūnana Leo
  • Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA)
  • Nā Leo Na‘auao – Native Hawaiian Charter School Alliance
  • KCAA Preschools of Hawaii
  • Seagull School
  • Kama‘āina Kids
  • Keiki Care Center of Hawaii
  • Ka Huli Mua, LLC
  • JumpStart Preschool
  • Aloha School Early Learning Center
  • Ke Kula ‘O Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u
  • Waikeola Congregational Church Preschool
  • Kailua Methodist Preschool
  • Child & Family Service[9]
  • Hawaii Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Kamehameha Schools
  • Hawaii Business Roundtable
  • IMUAlliance
  • 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[6]
  • Children's Action Network
  • Hawaii Catholic Conference[11]


A Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki campaign video titled "Yes on 4 - Yes Brainer."

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! [2]

Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki[12]

A Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki campaign video titled "Yes on 4 - Teacher."

Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki also supplied four facts to encourage people to vote "yes" on the amendment:[13]

  • "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.

  • Facilities: Is there adequate space on every DOE campus for preschool classrooms? Additionally, classrooms will need to be modified to meet the needs of young children, including usable space per child, indoor areas for toilets, drinking water and hand-washing facilities, routine cleaning and sanitation (examples as per NAEYC accreditation standards). The cost to adapt existing classrooms to accommodate 4-year-old children is estimated at 24.8 million. Is that funding available?
  • Teachers: Does the DOE currently employ teachers who have background and/or specific training in early education? Are professional development opportunities and/or higher education courses easily accessible to meet the needs of teachers?
  • History: The DOE previously operated the Jr. K program in select communities but with very mixed success (the program has since ended in 2013). How will this be different and ensure success?

... 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. [2]

—Coreen K. Lee[14]

Other arguments in support of the amendment included:

  • 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."[7]

Campaign contributions

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of October 28, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $1,387,285
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $275,000

As of October 28, 2014, supporters had received $1,387,285 in contributions.[15]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Good Beginnings Alliance - Children's Action Network $887,285 $735,421
Kamehameha Schools Early Education Support $500,000 $500,000
Total $1,387,285 $1,235,421

Top contributors:

Donor Amount
Kamehameha Schools $500,000
Kamehameha School Early Education Support $500,000
The Omidyar Family Trust $350,000
First Insurance Co. of HI Charitable Foundation $15,000
Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. $10,000
Pacific Resource Partnership $5,000
Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Program $5,000
Bank of Hawaii $5,000


Hawaii Vote No on 4 2014.jpg

The Hawaii State Teachers Association played a prominent role in the campaign against the amendment.[16]

Opponents argued that the amendment wouldn’t have created equal opportunities for all children and would have subsidized wealthy private schools. They claimed the amendment would have taken money from public schools. Many called for fully funded preschool, but through the state’s public education system.




The following state senators voted against placing the amendment on the ballot:[1]

The following senator voted to place the issue on the ballot, but was against the measure's approval:


The following state representatives voted against placing the amendment on the ballot:[1]



  • Jeanne Marie Iorio, professor of early childhood education at the University of Hawai'i[9]
  • 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:

Hawaii State Teachers Association logo.jpg

... 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.

  • The amendment will cost taxpayers upwards of an additional $125 million per year. And our government does not have any plans of how to come up with these funds.
  • This means the amendment would rob public schools of funds that could go towards school supplies, fixing our school buildings, more teachers, technology upgrades or reducing class sizes.
  • Instead, public funds would go toward subsidizing wealthy private schools that charge as much as $15,000 in annual tuition.

Hawaii’s neediest families will not benefit.

  • The amendment will NOT cover the entire cost of tuition charged by private preschools, preventing the neediest families from having equal access to preschool.
  • Our neediest communities are NOT currently served by private preschools.
  • So most families will have to go outside their communities to try to gain access to private preschools.

“…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. [2]

—Hawaii State Teachers Association[16]

Toni Reynolds, an elementary school teacher from Kailua-Kona, called the amendment "ill-conceived." Reynolds elaborated:

A For The Future of Our Keiki campaign video.

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. [2]

—Toni Reynolds[19]

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. [2]

—Professors Jeanne Marie Iorio and Susan Matoba Adler, [9]

Mary Weir, co-chair of the Education Task Force for Faith Action for Community Equity, stated, "I don’t doubt [supporters'] sincerity and genuine love for children, but I do doubt their willingness to include the well-being of blue collar and lower income families in their plan." She questioned the amendment's ability to aid children from working-class and low-income families, saying:

The fundamental constitutional change also upsets one of the core values of our state constitution — equalization of funding for rural and poor public schools.

The reality is that private preschools are not evenly distributed across our islands. Because private preschools are businesses, they tend to be located near the families who can afford to pay tuition. In today’s Hawaii, when most working families hold down two jobs, this is unaffordable, and there is simply no time in the day for many parents to add a side trip to a different neighborhood in order to drop off and pick up their preschoolers. Public elementary schools are in every neighborhood and many, if not most, are within walking distance of families’ homes.

No constitutional amendment is needed to expand quality preschools in public schools. So why isn’t a plan for expanding the number of public preschools even on the table? Public schools accept all children, they’re accessible to all children, they have licensed teachers, and they are required to make accommodations for children with disabilities while private schools do not.

When Hawaii’s constitution was written, people believed that education was of the utmost importance in creating opportunity for the children of the state’s working families. This was in direct contrast to the exclusive private school system. For the people who can afford it, private school in Hawaii is still considered a part of an extended entry fee some families pay to ensure that their children stay in the upper middle class. Like it or not, this is increasingly the system we live in, and it is this way because of the steady withdrawal of investment, energy and attention from our public schools.[2]

—Mary Weir[20]

Other arguments against the amendment included:

  • 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."[17]
  • State Senator Samuel Slom said, "This is not about education. This is about funding a subsidy.”[7]
  • 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.”[21]

Campaign contributions

As of October 28, 2014, opponents had received $275,000 in contributions.[15]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
For The Future Of Our Keiki $275,000 $134,329
Total $275,000 $134,329

Top contributors:

Donor Amount
NEA Fund for Children and Public Education $275,000

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Hawaii ballot measures, 2014


  • Honolulu Civil Beat said, "Hawaii is, after all, the only state that prohibits public funding of private schools. Furthermore, until this year, Hawaii was just one of 10 states that didn’t have any public preschool program. We are woefully behind the rest of the country, which has already been experimenting with various models of public-private systems. Passing the constitutional amendment is the first step in catching up."[22]
  • Honolulu Star-Advertiser‎ said, "The most effective states rely on such a mixed-delivery system to offer the best value for taxpayers and for children and families. This is straightforward in most states, and can be in Hawaii, too, by lifting the current funding restriction."[23]


See also: Polls, 2014 ballot measures
Hawaii Amendment 4 (2014)
Poll Support OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Ward Research
2/1/2014 - 2/11/2014
Ward Research
AVERAGES 56% 37.5% 6% +/-3.95 623.5
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

Hawaii Constitution
Flag of Hawaii.png
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.[1]

Senate vote

April 30, 2013 Senate vote

Hawaii SB 1084 Senate Vote
Approveda Yes 21 84.00%

House vote

April 30, 2013 House vote

Hawaii SB 1084 House Vote
Approveda Yes 37 72.55%

See also

Suggest a link

Additional reading

External links

Basic information




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Hawaii State Legislature, "SB1084 SD1 HD1 CD1," accessed January 16, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  3. Hawaii State Legislature, "SB 1084 Text," accessed April 7, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hawaii Educational Policy Center, "A Short Voter’s Guide to the Proposed Constitutional Amendment for Early Education Programs," accessed September 19, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Honolulu Civil Beat, "Should Public Money Be Used for Private Preschools?," September 15, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki, "Homepage," accessed September 10, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Honolulu Civil Beat, "Voters To Decide If Hawaii Can Use Public Money For Private Preschool," May 1, 2013
  8. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Schatz Endorses Preschool Ballot Campaign," October 21, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Hawaii Legislature, "Education Committee Testimony on February 1, 2013," accessed August 18, 2014
  10. Yes on 4, "Business, Community Groups Join “Yes on 4” Preschool Supporters," October 15, 2014
  11. 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
  12. Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki, "Why Yes on 4?," accessed September 10, 2014
  13. Yes on 4 for Pre-K Keiki, "Get the Facts," accessed September 10, 2014
  14. Huffington Post, "Voting Yes for the Constitutional Amendment," September 10, 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, "Good Beginnings Alliance - Children's Action Network," accessed September 10, 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Hawaii State Teachers Association, "VOTE “NO” on Giving Public Money to Private Schools," August 21, 2014
  17. 17.0 17.1 Hawaii Reporter, "Ige Says Education Top Priority If Elected Governor," July 29, 2014
  18. Hawaii Family Advocates, "HFA Responds to Constitutional Amendment Questions," October 20, 2014
  19. West Hawaii Today, "Letters | 9-18-14," September 18, 2014
  20. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Campaign Corner: No on Ballot Measure 4," October 28, 2014
  21. Hawaii State Teachers Association, "What one teachers says about preschool vouchers and public education," March 8, 2013
  22. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Preschool Ballot Question: Vote Yes Because Hawaii’s Keiki Need More Options," October 9, 2014
  23. Honolulu Star-Advertiser‎, "Voters should support pre-K amendment," October 27, 2014