State lawmakers are considering several measures to improve early education in the islands. Two bills could help address an ongoing shortage of early educators.
When it comes to early education in the state, historically there have not been enough programs to meet demand from families. And the pandemic has worsened that shortage.
In the past two years, state legislators have passed bills to address the challenges surrounding early educators – including recruitment and retention.
One of them was Act 46 in 2020. It created goals to expand preschool access to all 3- and 4-year-olds by 2032.
Last year, lawmakers passed HB1362 which established a stipend program for University of Hawaiʻi students interested in becoming early childhood educators.
This year, several proposals aim to understand the shortage — and help retain workers.
Introduced by Senator Bennette Misalucha, SB2700 would update the state’s child care registry and require providers and educators to register with the state.
Misalucha says this is a small step toward meeting the goals of Act 46.
"We need to set a foundation, because how can we establish how to get there if we don’t even know where to start? So I think this bill sets us on that roadmap, so we would have the data we need and then this would allow us to plan ahead and plan for the future," Misalucha said.
Another bill, SB2701, would establish a pilot stipend program to help retain current caregivers and educators.
Misalucha says this would not only benefit educators but also collect essential information about compensation.
"This particular bill covers about 200 individuals. And I think with that data, we will be able to plan ahead, we can have a more informed policy decision regarding this very important workforce. You know, we keep talking about how important our keikis are, but this is the time that we should put our money where our mouth is," Misalucha told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.