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Citing Private Providers, Hawaii Union Opposes Pre-K Expansion

Hawaii's statewide teacher union has come out swinging against a ballot initiative to expand pre-K programs in the state via private providers, the Associated Press and Honolulu Star-Advertiser report.

Teachers' unions are usually strong supporters of pre-K expansion, so what gives in the Aloha State?

The Hawaii State Teachers Association says that the expansion would stand to take cash from public schools, possibly leading to higher class sizes and fewer resources for other schools, and that the expansion wouldn't necessarily cover all tuition costs, thereby preventing the very neediest families from access. 

There could be another factor influencing HSTA's position too: Employees in privately run programs would not have to become members of the union.

Just 10 states have no state-funded pre-K programs. In most states, a mix of public and private pre-K providers help meet need. Hawaii is also the only state to explicitly prohibit in its state constitution the use of public funding to support private pre-K providers.

Interestingly enough, the National Education Association—HSTA's parent union—had a big debate back in 2008 about whether to open membership to teachers in private institutions. Delegates turned down the idea—with the exception of private pre-K providers, who were given the green light to join.

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