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Hawaii Early-Childhood Funding Sparks Voucher Conversation

Hawaii is among several states attempting to expand its early-childhood education offerings during this legislative year.

To do so, the state has been required to overcome a constitutional barrier to spending state money to pay for spots in private preschools.

According to an article on the website of KITV, the state's ABC affiliate, the state attorney general has said that Gov. Neil Abercrombie's plan to start a 3,500-student preschool program in 2014-15 would require a constitutional amendment.

In response to the attorney general leter, state lawmakers drafted a constitutional amendment bill that was approved by Hawaii House and Senate conferees this month.

The situation has exposed some fault lines in the early-childhood plan, with the Hawaii State Teachers Association saying it's opposed because of the mingling of private preschools and state money.

"When you use public funds to give to private entities, it is a voucher program," Will Okabe, the president of the teachers' association, told the news station. "If it was so cut and dry, you wouldn't need a constitutional amendment."

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