Hawaii may amend constitution for preschool proposal

HONOLULU – Hawaii lawmakers in both chambers want to change the state’s constitution to allow funding for a new preschool program.

Advocates say the best way to achieve a statewide program is through public-private partnerships.

But the state constitution prohibits public funds from going to private schools. The program could eventually cost about $130 million per year, according to an estimate from the Governor’s Office. (An Associated Press story on Page A3 of Thursday’s The Maui News estimated the annual cost at as much as $150 million per year.)

Senate education committee Chairwoman Jill Tokuda supports the amendment and said it doesn’t open the door to school voucher programs.

Committees in the House and Senate approved the bill Friday.

The Senate education committee approved two bills earlier this week related to childhood education.

One establishes a school readiness program for the 2014-2015 school year to provide services for 4-year-olds who won’t be eligible for kindergarten after the state’s pre-kindergarten program ends in 2014. The second bill establishes a preschool program in 2015.