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5 education bills become law, moving needle forward to meet community needs

Lānaʻi High and Elementary School

Gov. David Ige signed five education bills into law Thursday. Among the measures was House Bill 2000, which allocates $200 million to the School Facilities Authority to expand preschool access in the state. Funds can be allocated for renovating or constructing new facilities in order to create preschool classrooms.

"It's a very good start," said Chad Keone Farias, executive director of the School Facilities Authority. "Not enough money, obviously, we have thousands of seats that we have to create for pre-K. But it is a great start."

Gov. David Ige signs five education bills into law on July 7, 2022.
Office of Gov. David Ige
Gov. David Ige signs five education bills into law on July 7, 2022.

Farias tells HPR this is the first major investment the authority has received since it was created in 2017. But receiving $200 million in the middle of the biennium budget presents a challenge — giving the SFA one year to use the money.

Farias says the authority is up for the challenge.

"A biennium spend in a year, it may seem like too much, but we're gonna go after it and do our best."

Farias says the easiest allocation of funds could go to the 36 classrooms in the state's public pre-K Head Start program. Money could also go to the more than 20 classrooms that are planned to enter the program.

But Farias says he is looking forward to working with public and private partners to distribute the money in an equitable manner.

Another measure signed into law is Senate Bill 2818, which creates a summer learning coordinator position at the state Department of Education.

Superintendent Keith Hayashi tells HPR the creation of this position will further the department's efforts to address learning loss caused by the pandemic.

"We want to continue to support their learning and growth. Summer learning, summer school, summer hubs during the summertime has been a very important strategy in helping to support our students," he said.

There are 244 public and charter schools offering summer learning programs. Hayashi says the coordinator position will help to oversee those programs are meeting the needs of students "academically, as well as socially, emotionally."

Another proposal becoming law is Senate Bill 2862, allocating another $10 million to installing air conditioning units in public schools. Hayashi says there are roughly 5,000 classrooms that still don't have air conditioning.

"3,000 of them are electrical-ready, that have electrical capacity, that we can go ahead and start installing those AC units," he said. "This $10 million... goes a long way in getting our air conditioning going in classes."

Hayashi estimates installing air conditioning in the 3,000 classrooms will cost roughly $24 million.

Other measures include creating a school gardens coordinator position at the DOE and establishing a workforce readiness program.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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