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Sen. Michelle N. Kidani and Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke play with the keiki at the UH Mānoa Children’s Center (Photo credit: Office of Lieutenant Governor)

State officials and community stakeholders celebrated funding for the Early Childhood Educator Stipend Program, an initiative to boost the state’s Early Childhood workforce, on July 6 at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Children’s Center, the on-campus preschool. The Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL) received $660,000 in funding from the state budget, signed by Gov. Josh Green on June 30.

EOEL launched the program in partnership with the UH Mānoa College of Education (COE) in time for the 2023 UH summer sessions. The program provides stipends to eligible UH students enrolled in a certificate, degree or license program in early childhood education (ECE), including those focused on Hawaiian language. It is the first publicly funded tuition stipend program available for practitioners in the early childhood field. Initial funding was generously donated by the Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation.

“We are grateful for this stipend program helping us complete a higher education degree. It helps practitioners who are starting out in their education as well as existing practitioners to achieve higher credentials,” stated in a joint statement by Malia Pimentel, Sheri Funasaki, Hazel Hernadez and Sarah Starr, early childhood educators who are current recipients of the program. “It recognizes that our knowledge in early childhood is an essential part of providing quality services to young children and we are committed to being well informed about the research of our field and equipped with practices to positively support all keiki and their families.”

The stipend program aligns with the state’s commitment to expand access to preschool statewide. Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, who is leading the Ready Keiki initiative stated, “As we prioritize early childhood education for Hawaiʻi’s youngest learners, it’s essential we invest in creating a robust workforce of qualified educators to support our keiki. The momentum right now to invest in early learning is so exciting, and it’ll take collaborative partnerships like this stipend program to make universal access to preschool a reality.”

The program is open to students enrolled at UH Mānoa, UH West Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Community College, Honolulu CC, Kauaʻi CC and UH Maui College. Upon completion of the certificate/degree/license program, students must commit to two consecutive years of working directly with children in the early learning field.

“Our Lieutenant Governor and legislators have provided leadership in prioritizing early childhood education for our state by expanding physical spaces,” said COE Dean Nathan Murata. “In order to increase the early childhood educator workforce, we must also support teachers as they matriculate in early education to ensure that highly qualified teachers and staff are in every early learning classroom. With the generous support of the Castle Foundation, the Early Childhood Educator Stipend Program has come to fruition, allowing current and potential teacher candidates to enroll and seek licensure in early childhood education.”

Eligible students must be enrolled in ECE generalist certificates, degrees or license programs in one of seven UH system campuses; maintain a C or better in coursework; and work in a position in the early learning system as described in HRS §302L-2 for two years after matriculation. The next application deadline is July 15, 2023 and the opportunity will be offered again for spring 2024. For those interested in applying or learning more about the program, visit EOEL’s website.

Excitement for fostering future educators

“Thoughtful and committed educators create environments where students thrive,” said EOEL Director Yuuko Arikawa-Cross. “Hawaiʻi is expanding early learning opportunities and is looking for individuals who have a love for learning and a desire to shape the future. We encourage individuals to consider a career in the early learning field; the Early Childhood Educator Stipend Program is available to assist.”

“This stipend program aligns with national policy initiatives,” said State Rep. Justin Woodson, chair of the House Education Committee. “I’m excited the legislature was able to work with this administration to now be able to finance and bolster this program that will help offset the cost of tuition and encourage higher educational attainment.”

“The Samuel N. and Mary Castle Trustees are proud to work closely with the governor, lieutenant governor, the Executive Office on Early Learning, the legislature and the University of Hawaiʻi, to encourage our future early learning teachers to enter this critical-need field,” said Alfred Castle, the CEO of the Castle Foundation. “For well over a century, the Castle family has supported Hawaiʻi’s children and families through the support of teacher education, kindergartens, infant-toddler projects and preschool education. This stipend program is part of that ongoing effort.”

child reading book to adults
(Photo credit: Office of Lieutenant Governor)
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