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Despite Critics, Hawaii To Launch After-School Child-Care Program

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Despite a wave of criticism and challenges, state officials in Hawaii are poised to begin a statewide after-school child-care program in February.

The "A-Plus" pilot project, which will provide three hours of afternoon care to 16,000 children in kindergarten through 6th grade, has been "going through endless controversy," Lieut. Gov. Benjamin J. Cayetano said last week.

"Hardly a day goes by when some new criticism isn't raised," observed Mr. Cayetano, who is in charge of the new program.

Last month, he noted, the program survived a challenge from State Senator Russell Blair, who argued that Gov. John Waihee 3rd did not have legislative authority to implement and fund a new child-care program. Attorney General Warren Price 3rd upheld the Governor's authority, however.

More recently, a state representative criticized the program for failing to comply with a state law requiring the fingerprinting of child-care workers.

Defending the policy, Mr. Cayetano noted that over 80 percent of the 1,100 staff members will be teachers, principals, and counselors from the regular school system, where fingerprinting is not required.

Cost Put at $4.7 Million

The A-Plus program is expected to cost approximately $4.7 million to operate from February to June 1990. The monthly expense per child is projected to be $79, of which parents will have to pay only $23.

Initially, only children from single-parent families and families where both parents work will be eligible for the program.

Mr. Cayetano added, however, that a bill to make the program permanent will be considered in the upcoming legislative session. If it is passed, the criteria for eligibility could bebroadened to include, for example, children of welfare mothers or those whose parents are in college.

In response to complaints from a group of parents of private-school children, the attorney general is currently considering whether such students can be included in the program.

The private-school issue continues to be a subject of hot debate, even within the education department, said Mr. Cayetano.

As of last week, the administration had received about 18,300 applications for the program. Of those, 44 percent are from families with incomes of $30,000 or less, and 20 percent are from single-parent households.--jw

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