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State Legislators on the Senate Ways and Means committee have been conducting site visits during the interim with officials from State departments to follow up on major issues and priorities. In the 2023 State Legislative Session, the Legislature committed $660,000 of general funds for the Early Childhood Educator Stipend Program, an initiative to boost the State’s early childhood workforce.

“Over the last few years, the Legislature has demonstrated its commitment to expand early learning opportunities for all keiki across the state, recognizing it as a critical investment in our future” said Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. “At these site visits, departments share progress pertaining to implementation of key initiatives and provide the committee an opportunity to ensure State funds are being used properly and are actually supporting our residents” he continued.

The committee hosted a site visit at Pāhoa Elementary on Hawaiʻi Island on November 7, 2023, where they received updates on the stipend program, as well as on early childhood program expansion efforts, from the Executive Office on Early Learning, the Hawaiʻi Department of Education, and the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa College of Education. The program initially launched in time for the 2023 University of Hawaiʻi Summer Semester and will accept applications in advance of each semester.

“Our early childhood workforce, especially those in the classroom working directly with children, are the backbone of a quality program” said Senator Michelle Kidani, a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and Chair of the Senate Committee on Education. She stated, “we want to ensure this program supports more people like Principal Payne-Arakaki, Principal of Pāhoa Elementary, and Kali Lender, the teacher for Pāhoa Elementary’s EOEL Public Prekindergarten classroom to enter the field so we can continue to provide more opportunities for Hawaiʻi’s families.”

This is the first publicly funded tuition stipend program for professionals in early childhood education.

“We want to acknowledge Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke, who has really taken the charge on leading these efforts through her Ready Keiki Initiative” says Chair Dela Cruz. “We want to continue working with the Lieutenant Governor and State departments to ensure we are supporting our communities and meeting their needs as efficiently as possible” he continued.

The program is open to students enrolled at UH Mānoa, UH West Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Community College, Honolulu Community College, Kauaʻi Community College, and UH Maui College and requires a consecutive two-year commitment to working directly with children in the early learning field. The next application deadline is December 1, 2023. For those interested in applying or learning more about the program, they may visit EOEL’s website.

Senators Chris Lee, Glenn Wakai, Donovan Dela Cruz, Lorraine Inouye, Donna Mercado Kim, Joy San Buenaventura, Michelle Kidani, and Henry Aquino visit Pāhoa Elementary.

Senator Donovan Dela Cruz and Donna Mercado Kim awaiting a presentation at Pāhoa Elementary

Senators Lorraine Inouye, Donna Mercado Kim, Joy San Buenaventura, and Michelle Kidani engage with students at Pāhoa Elementary.


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