A new national report finds Hawaiʻi is one of only five states in the country to meet 10 of 10 research-based quality benchmarks for pre-kindergarten programs. However, the report finds the state ranks 44th in the nation for preschool enrollment for four-year-olds and 31st for three-year-olds.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its annual State of Preschool report, which tracks preschool enrollment, funding, and quality across states. The
2023 State of Preschool Yearbook found that, in the 2022-2023 school year:

  • Hawaii served 4% of the state’s four-year-olds and 1% of three-year-olds in state-funded
    preschool, for a total enrollment of 704 (an increase of 155 from the prior year).
  • State spending totaled $7,516,239, up $140,914 (2%), adjusted for inflation, since last
  • State spending per child equaled $10,676 in 2022-2023, down $2,758 from 2021-2022,
    adjusted for inflation.
  • Hawaii met 10 of 10 research-based quality standards benchmarks for minimum quality
    recommended by NIEER.

Hawaiʻi is one of only 16 states and the District of Columbia that has committed to universal preschool for four-year-olds, but the state currently ranks near the bottom in preschool access. Progress is on the horizon as enrollment is poised to triple by the 2024-2025 school year.

Since January 2023, Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke has spearheaded the state's universal access to preschool initiative, Ready Keiki, which takes a mixed-delivery approach to expand the availability of pre-K seats across Hawaiʻi. "In just one year, we have created over 200 new preschool seats for our children. As we continue to build on this progress and expand opportunities for our keiki, quality early education remains essential," said Luke. "That is why I'm grateful and proud of the charter and public preschools across our state for their continued commitment to preparing our keiki for kindergarten and their futures."

The Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL), which supports early childhood care and education in the state of Hawaiʻi, is working in conjunction with the Lieutenant Governorʻs
office and the State Public Charter Schools Commission to continue to bridge the gap for pre-k access in Hawaiʻi. Part of EOELʻs mission is to work in partnership with early care providers to ensure a solid foundation for education, development, and learning for children in Hawaii.