Transcript 1/22/13: Twitter Town Hall on Early Learning

On Tuesday January 22, 2013, Senate Education Chair Jill Tokuda held a Twitter Town Hall regarding the creation of a state-funded early learning system in Hawaii. Terry Lock, Executive Director of the Executive Office of Early Learning, also joined Senator Tokuda to answer questions during the Twitter Town Hall. This was Tokuda’s second Twitter Town Hall event. The first town hall discussed legislation to put in place a constitutionally-mandated appointed Board of Education.

A transcript of this event is included below. This transcript was retrieved from Senator Tokuda’s Twitter feed (@jilltokuda) and is in chronological order, from the Senator’s opening to closing statements. During the event, participants’ questions were ReTweeted (RTed), also referred to as reposted, by the Senator, followed by her answer.

For ease of following the discussion, it was decided that “Q:” would be used to denote when the Senator RTed a question and “A:” would be used to denote when she answered a question (thus in the below transcript, Q: @username: followed by a question designates that the Senator is RTing an individual participant’s question. Similarly, A: followed by Senator Tokuda: designates that the Senator is answering that individual participant’s question).

Senator Tokuda: Getting ready for our early learning twitter town hall in a few minutes! Tweet me your thoughts/questions! #askjill

Senator Tokuda:  Learn about what’s going on at the Executive Office on Early Learning w/Exec Director Terry Lock! #askjill

Q: @Gil4SD5: Early childhood education is impt but how will Gov. @neilabercrombie ensure immigrant populations (like Filipinos) will participate #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda: @Gil4SD5 Community outreach/public awareness critical component of plan, esp in initial years; will help reach diverse populations #askjill

Q: @Bytemarks: How will early childhood learning programs benefit from being under DOE? How will it improve the current situation #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 1): @Bytemarks While it will be administratively attached to DOE, curriculum, standards & assessments will be set by EOEL, which has… #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 2) :  @Bytemarks …an Advisory Board & working grps made up of advocates & industry leaders helping to shape/guide the program. #askjill

Q: @Gil4SD5: Same question on early childhood initiative access by other disadvantaged socio-economic groups in the Hawaii population. #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 1): @Gil4SD5 Many low income already served by Head Start; this program will seek to cover range of economic grps like working… #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 2): @Gil4SD5 …families. Good outreach/developing the sliding fee scale will be key to how best we serve these grps. Looking at models #askjill

Q: @Bytemarks: Where would the money come from for the State to fund an early childhood learning program? What other programs would suffer? #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda: @Bytemarks Would be general fund $$$. It comes down to investing in our priorities that will reap long term gains. This will. #askjill

Q: @MoxieCoreen: Will families get to choose programs their child attends? #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda: @MoxieCoreen Details still to be worked out, but idea is that families will be able to choose from a list of participating programs #askjill

Q: @Gil4SD5: @jilltokuda Are outcomes from EOEL curriculum, standards & assessments gonna be measurable and UNDERSTANDABLE for parents? #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda: @Gil4SD5 YES but can always do better, that’s why part of EOEL’s work is also focused on family engagement #askjill See

Q: @yvkuroka: @jilltokuda @Bytemarks families pay up to 700 for preschool. Other programs like A+ have a fee, could there be a charge to help subsidize

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 1): @yvkuroka Working out details, initial plan is to create shared responsibility b/n families & the state w/a sliding fee scale #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 2): @yvkuroka We are looking at best practices across country that use sliding fee scales so we can help as many families as possible. #askjill

Senator Tokuda: Enjoying your q’s! Glad to have EOEL Exec Director Terry Lock here to join in on the answers! Keep tweeting! #askjill

Q: @mzkaneella: #askjill what about making sure there are enough spaces the wait lists are extensive in some communities

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 1): @mzkaneella Have been doing inventory/capacity study-recognize that we have work to do to increase # of providers/classrooms in…#askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 2): @mzkaneella …certain communities. That is also why we gave ourselves time/started w/manageable cohort of students to begin with. #askjill

Q: @aliaemily: @jilltokuda what student/teacher ratio are you aiming for? #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda: @aliaemily It’s being discussed to have qualified programs w/1:10 staff/child ratio w/no more than 20 children total in the class #askjill

Q: @JSmikulanec: #askjill what are the top two things parents and advocates can do to help legislators understand how important this issue is?

     A: Senator Tokuda: @JSmikulanec 1) Testify & make it personal; 2) Invite us to your preschool-we talk about the future…show us the future. #askjill

Senator Tokuda: Taking last 2 questions, but you folks have been awesome! I need to do this more often! Tweet me topics to my account! #askjill

Q: @mzkaneella: #askjill how will the barriers be addressed? Stable housing transportation family stability those r the kids that need it

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 1): @mzkaneella EOEL is working w/DHS, DOH & DOE & local agencies & nonprofit providers to ensure needs to children/families are being..#askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 2): @mzkaneella …addressed in a comprehensive way. Providers would also be identified in a child’s community to increase access. #askjill

Q: @Bytemarks: Will early childhood programs require new buildings or will it reuse existing facilities? @mzkaneella #askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda (Part 1): @Bytemarks Ideally it would maximize use of existing facilities. For example, we could look at underutilized DOE facilities as a…#askjill

     A: Senator Tokuda( Part 2): @Bytemarks Pre-Plus Model where private providers use DOE bldg/land. We do have a capacity issue w/facilities, so doing an inventory is key

@Bytemarks: Thanks @jilltokuda for doing this. It was very informative. Say Hi to by cuz Terry Lock. #askjill

Senator Tokuda:  @Bytemarks Your Cuz said Hi & thanks for all the hard questions! LOL!

@Bytemarks: @jilltokuda You did a great job and if anybody can handle, Terry can!

Senator Tokuda: Logging out now, giving my twitter account a rest & heading home soon to “live” early learning. LOL! Thank you for all the great questions!