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Hawaiʻi state funded preschool tops quality rankings

April 24, 2024, 1:00 PM HST

Ready Keiki public preschool launch at Wailuku Elementary School. (7.27.23) PC: Wendy Osher / Maui Now

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-K programs. However, the report finds the state ranks No. 44 in the nation for preschool enrollment for four-year-olds and No. 31 for three-year-olds.

The National Institute for Early Education Research 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:

  • Hawaiʻi 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 year. 
  • State spending per child equaled $10,676 in 2022-2023, down $2,758 from 2021-2022, adjusted for inflation.
  • Hawaiʻi 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.

During the 2022-2023 school year, Hawaii preschool enrolled 704 children, an increase of 155 from the prior year. Graph: NIEER

According to the Hawaiʻi Executive Office on Early Learning, enrollment is poised to triple by the 2024-2025 school year.

Since January 2023, Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke has spearheaded the state’s universal access to preschool initiative, , 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 Hawaiʻi.

The is available online.