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Preschool In Hawaii: Expensive And ‘Ridiculously Hard to Find’

September 13, 2017
Suevon Lee
Honolulu Civil Beat

When it came time to find a public preschool for his 4-year-old son this school year, James Peck was one of the luckier parents.

His son, Leo, is one of 15 kids enrolled in the inaugural preschool program at Kamalani Academy, a new Hawaiian-focused arts integration charter school in Wahiawa that serves pre-kindergarten through grade 8.

“As everybody knows, pre-K is ridiculously hard to find —  free public free-K,” Peck said as he accompanied his son on the first day of preschool. “I’m going to presume this is going to be really hard to get into later on when people find out about it.”

Finding affordable preschool for children remains a challenge for families in Hawaii. A private preschool in Hawaii can cost hundreds of dollars a month or even exceed $1,000 for families, depending on the program and age level it serves.

The $11,232 average annual price tag of center-based child care for a 4-year-old in Hawaii is highest in the nation as a percentage of median income for married couples, according to Child Care Aware of America.

And Hawaii ranks at the bottom of states when it comes to access to public preschool, according to a 2016 report by the National Institute for Early Education Research. Only 2 percent of all 4-year-old children in the state were enrolled in state-funded public pre-K in the 2015-16 school year, compared with the national average of 32 percent.