Several charter schools in Hawaii are opening tuition-free preschool programs with the help of federal money.
Last December, the U.S. Department of Education gave Hawaii a $14.8 million preschool development grant to pay for pre-K programs for low-income children. The development grants, of which there were five total, were awarded to states with either small publicly-funded preschool programs or none at all. Thirteen additional states that have existing preschool programs were awarded expansion grants.
Charter schools were left out of Hawaii’s first state-funded pre-K program, which lawmakers approved for $3 million in 2014, according to the Honolulu-based TV station Hawaii News Now.
At the beginning of this school year, four charter preschools will open on the Big Island with enough money for another 16 additional programs. Once the initiative ramps up, the state says a total of 920 students will be able to attend charter-run preschools.
But nationally, charters have struggled to break into the preschool market.
Of the 35 states, plus the District of Columbia, that had both state-funded pre-K programs and charter laws, only six have hospitable policies toward charter-run preschools, according to a recent study co-authored by noted Pre-K expert Sara Mead for the Fordham Institute—a right-leaning think tank.
Out of sync state charter and pre-K policies are largely to blame, the report said.
Hawaii and 13 other states were excluded from the report because they did not have both state-funded pre-K programs and charter laws at the time the data was collected for the study.
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Photo: A school bus travels down Highway 11 in the Kau District. (Marco Garcia/AP for Education Week)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.