Preschool advocates rally to sway budget debate


HONOLULU — As the doors closed on the first meeting of state budget negotiations at the Hawaii State Capitol, attendees could hear advocates for state-funded preschool chanting, “Keiki first!” from three floors below.

Lawmakers met Thursday to debate the budget in conference committee and were greeted by early childhood education advocates rallying for funds.

Although Gov. Neil Abercrombie says preschool is his top priority, the House didn’t fund the program in its budget draft.

The Senate budget set aside some money but less than what Abercrombie wants.

President Barack Obama’s sister Maya Soetoro-Ng spoke at the rally along with Abercrombie. She says funding preschool is an issue of equality and Hawaii should rise to the occasion.

Obama said in his State of the Union address this year that he supports universal preschool.