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Getting Our Priorities Straight

June 30, 2011
Governor Neil Abercrombie

We know these things—but for years, the State of Hawai‘i has been dismantling early intervention programs and reducing the assistance families need to access early learning opportunities. So it should be no surprise that we have been pouring tax dollars into disease management, incarceration and remedial education.

It’s time we get our priorities straight.

My administration has made early childhood a priority, and we will find ways to invest in the right services to ensure that all children get the chance to reach their full potential.

Recently, I announced that I appointed Terry Lock as the Governor’s Early Childhood coordinator. Terry understands the importance of investing in our young children, and brings with her decades of experience to lead the charge in a new direction. Terry’s responsibilities will include:

• Planning a state structure that supports an early childhood system that improves outcomes for children prenatal to age 5;

• Leading coordination among state agencies to improve services and outcomes for children and families;

• Developing public and private partnerships; and

• Advocating for public policy to achieve better outcomes for Hawai‘i’s keiki.

Terry will be instrumental in establishing an early childhood action plan for the state, which will be shared by the Early Learning Council and state agencies. Her appointment is the first step in planning for a department for early childhood as articulated in our New Day Plan.

I also announced that the Department of Health will continue the Healthy Start program, which identifies the most at-risk families in Hawai‘i and helps them at the earliest possible time. In the last legislative session, the state Legislature did not appropriate funds to continue Healthy Start. We believed Healthy Start was a priority and reallocated $3 million annually for the next two fiscal years from the Tobacco Settlement Special Fund to maintain the current program. This commitment supports families and also enables Hawai‘i to receive federal funds for home visiting services.

Our values are clear: In Hawai‘i, we put children first. We have always felt an obligation to future generations and we act on that obligation, even when that means sacrificing something today.



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