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Embarking on a vision to expand pre-K for our keiki statewide

Posted on Aug 25, 2022 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main

More pre-K options are planned.

Life-changing . . . monumental.” That’s how Chad Keone Farias, the state’s new School Facilities Authority (SFA) executive director, described Act 257, the historic piece of legislation Governor Ige recently signed into law to support his and the legislature’s vision of expanded early childhood education. The act appropriates $200 million to construct and renovate pre-kindergarten facilities in Hawai‘i by 2024. Farias is meeting with multiple stakeholders, listening to new ideas, and “over-communicating” to address concerns — all while hiring staff and staying focused on moving projects forward. SFA’s top three priorities include expanding preschool capacity statewide, building new schools for K -12 students in fast-growing areas and creating more affordable housing for teachers and others.

New School Facilities Authority executive director Chad Keone Farias

Why is pre-K so important? Based on his 30-year career as a teacher, principal and complex area superintendent, Farias explained, “The most brain growth happens in a child before the age of 5. You can go into a kindergarten classroom and spot the child who has had some pre-K — in their language ability, in fine and gross motor skills.” Surveys have shown that more than half of 3- and 4-year-olds in Hawai‘i aren’t enrolled in a public or private preschool. For many families, the cost of private preschool is more than they can afford. Farias applauded making pre-K a priority, saying, “The governor moved the needle by shifting the focus to early childhood. I don’t think we would have gotten the funding this legislative session had he not planted that seed.” So far, Farias has been encouraged by the positive community response. “Everyone has reached out. This is a new authority, and we feel a sense of urgency. We’re trying to keep all options on the table. There is need everywhere. This is a tree that’s going to bear fruit for our community for years to come.


Read more in the September Capitol Connection newsletter.

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