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New Law Moves Hawaii Closer to State-Funded Preschool for All

Hawaii has moved a step closer to providing a state-funded preschool program now that Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signed new legislation into law.

The new law establishes the Executive Office on Early Learning that is tasked with developing a plan for an early-learning program. That plan is to be presented to the state legislature before the start of the 2013 legislative session, according to the governor's website.

The law also repeals the state's junior kindergarten program at the end of the 2013-2014 school year and requires that all kids be 5 years old by July 31 to enter kindergarten the same year, starting in the 2014-2015 school year. The existing junior kindergarten program is open to kids who turn 5 after July 31 and aren't developmentally ready for regular kindergarten.

Hawaii is one of 11 states without a publicly funded preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds, according to the 2011 State Preschool Yearbook released by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The state does sponsor several initiatives, such as junior kindergarten, that target certain populations.

The new early-learning program would target kids who turn 5 after the kindergarten enrollment deadline and all 4-year-olds. The state is planning a "universal network of child care and preschool support" for every 4-year-old, the website says.

"One of the goals of my administration was to ensure that there was a collaborative effort to see to it that every young child in Hawaii has access to high-quality preschool," Abercrombie said on his website. "Investing in the next generation is the wisest decision that we can make as a people, and this measure makes such an investment."

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