While PPSHI wholeheartedly supports universal preschool education for Hawaii’s keiki, we oppose the constitutional amendment #4 to allocate public tax payer dollars to pay for private preschool programs. We think that this is wrong thinking for these reasons.
First, this amendment will not bring access and equity to those who need it most – those who live at or below poverty levels, those families in rural areas, and those without sufficient transportation to get to schools in urban and even suburban areas. Approving this amendment would benefit families with money and limit opportunities for low and moderate income families.
Second, the amendment would blur lines separating church and state. Once funds from the public are given to private parochial preschools, the current schools will be banned from using religious symbols, prayers, chapel, hymns and church doctrine. Will this be monitored or regulated in any way? And if so, who would do it?
Third, there are no details about how this preschool program allocation and partnerships would occur. Do we know what we are actually voting to support with this amendment?
Finally, our state constitution prohibits that allocation of public funds for private schools. Indeed if the amendment #4 is approved, it will be detrimental to our public schools, favoring private preschools and in turn, private school enrollment.
We believe that our public funds should be directed to public preschool programs where all children have the opportunity to benefit.
To review the proposed constitutional amendment, read this link.
For implications for private funding, link to Attorney General’s letter and read the conclusion on page 7.
For further discussion of pros and cons, see Civil Beat article.