Ige opposes public money for private preschool


HONOLULU — The candidate challenging Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary opposes allowing public money to be spent on private preschool.

A constitutional amendment goes before voters in November to allow public money for private education. The amendment is a key element of Abercrombie’s plan to offer state-funded preschool to Hawaii’s 17,200 4-year-olds, using a combination of public and private preschool options.

Abercrombie’s re-election campaign has highlighted that early education is a top priority.

State Sen. David Ige, who is running against Abercrombie, had been undecided on the issue. But he now says he has philosophical concerns about taxpayer money going to private preschools, and instead wants to restart a junior kindergarten program at public schools that is being eliminated this year, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

“There are insufficient private providers,” Ige said, adding that he does support early education. “They’re not in communities that they’re most needed. And the cost is overwhelming.”

Abercrombie’s plan would cost more than $125 million a year.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association also opposes the amendment, arguing that it could lead to a private voucher program. The union wants to expand preschool only at public schools, using public school teachers. The union has endorsed Ige in the governor’s race.

The state constitution prohibits public money from being used for private education because private schools don’t provide equal access for all children.

“Private schools don’t play by public school rules,” Ige said.

———

Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com