Graphic: Emily Metcalf
Graphic: Emily Metcalf

HONOLULU, HAWAII – The Office of the Governor is pleased to announce it has submitted its application today for the “Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge” grant competition, a new federal funding opportunity by the Obama Administration.
The Governor’s Early Childhood Coordinator Terry Lock led the ambitious effort in working on a plan for Early Childhood Education in Hawai’i, a top priority of Governor Neil Abercrombie.

She was appointed on July 11, 2011 and immediately notified the federal government of Hawai’i’s intent to seek the Early Learning Challenge grant. Ms. Lock also began putting a working group together which included private partners and the state Departments of Human Services (DHS), Health, Education, Labor and Industrial Relations, and the University of Hawai’i.

“We worked hard. Win or lose, we have a plan,” said Ms. Lock. “This plan allows for private-public partnerships and builds on the foundation that is already in motion.  It speaks specifically for high quality early childhood programs for kids, birth to age five, with high needs.”

DHS Director Patricia McManaman noted, “We know that children who are unprepared to enter kindergarten are more likely to drop out of high school.  The absence of an education often translates to reduced work opportunities, lower wages, and higher incidences of criminality and incarceration.  This grant provides us with the opportunity to close these achievement gaps.”

Hawai’i applied for nearly $50 million over a four year period, which is the cap based on the state’s share of the national population of children from birth to five-years-old from low-income families.

“The task ahead is a very difficult one that will take time,” said Gary Kai, Hawai’i Business Roundtable Inc. Executive Director. “The Roundtable will continue to support the State and is prepared to work with all groups to achieve the goals they have set forth.”

Hawai’i’s Early Learning Challenge application proposes a collaborative and systematic approach to addressing five critical areas of reform:

1.        Enhancing the integration and coordination of programs, policies, and services.

2.        Designing and implementing a tiered quality rating and improvement system based on demanding statewide program standards.

3.        Improving early learning and development outcomes, with a focus on children with high needs.

4.        Enhancing the size and quality of the early childhood education workforce, and<

5.        Measuring outcomes and progress.

“This was a unique opportunity to quickly come together as an early childhood community and define what it is that we want for our youngest of students and identify how we must work together to get there,” said Senator Jill Tokuda, State Senate Education Committee Chair. “Regardless of the outcome, this application has resulted in a very viable roadmap for a successful early childhood system, and with Terry Lock driving the plan, I am excited about how far we will be able to go.”

The Early Learning Council (ELC) expressed strong support for the State of Hawai’i’s application for the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge program.

ELC Chair Dr. Robert Peters stated, “The ELC members, many who helped with our state’s application, are excited about the prospect of obtaining Early Learning Challenge funding that will accelerate our progress in enhancing Hawai’i’s early childhood learning and development system to better prepare children, especially those with high needs, to enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed in life.”

Awards in the Early Learning Challenge will go to states that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive early learning education reform.  Awardees will be notified at the end of this year.

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