Although Hawaii is one of 12 states in the U.S. that doesn’t offer state-funded preschool for all of its children, it does fund:
- Special-education preschool for children ages 3-5 with disabilities.
- Early-intervention services for children under age 3 with developmental delays or special health needs.
To get more info or to enroll in either of these programs, contact Hawaii Keiki Information Service System (H-KISS).
Even if your child doesn’t qualify for the above free services, you still may want to pay for them to attend a preschool program — not only for child care purposes, but also so that they are better prepared for kindergarten. For help in choosing the right preschool for your child, contact Hawaii’s free referral service: People Attentive To Children (PATCH). You can call them to discuss your needs, or get a referral online. PATCH is a member of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies.
Preschool Financial Aid
There are a couple of financial assistance programs for lower-income families in Hawaii who want to send their children to preschool:
- Child Care Connection Hawaii (CCCH) – Subsidized child care through Hawaii’s Department of Human Services. To qualify, your gross monthly income cannot be more than:
- Family of 2: $3,179
- Family of 3: $3,927
- Family of 4: $4,675
- Family of 5: $5,423
- Complete chart of income limits and co-pay sliding scale
- Preschool Open Doors (POD) – Subsidized preschool for 4-year-olds (and 3-year-olds with special needs). Open enrollment is during a limited time in the spring. The same income limits as CCCH (see above) apply. For more info, call: 808-791-2130 (Oahu) or 1-800-746-5620 (neighbor islands).
- Early Head Start & Head Start – Federally funded preschool for children ages 0-3 years (Early Head Start) and 3-5 years (Head Start):
- Oahu: Parents And Children Together (PACT), Honolulu Community Action Program (HCAP) (Head Start only)
- Big Island: Family Support Services West Hawaii (FSSWH) (Early Head Start and infant/toddler center), Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council (HCEOC) (Head Start only)
- Kauai: Child & Family Service (Head Start only)
- Maui, Molokai & Lanai: Maui Family Support Services (MFSS) (Early Head Start only), Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc. (MEO) (Head Start program and infant/toddler center)
In Hawaii, 17% of all schoolchildren attend private schools instead of public schools (as compared to 11% nationally). Competition to get accepted into one of the state’s prestigious “Big Three” private schools — Punahou (President Obama’s alma mater), Iolani, and Kamehameha Schools — is particularly fierce.
Although the private schools insist there is no such thing as “feeder schools,” rumors persist that students who attend certain schools in earlier grade levels have a better chance of being accepted into Hawaii’s most sought-after private schools for later grade levels. This concept of feeder schools starts as early as preschool, in the belief that attending the “right” preschool will better a child’s chances of being accepted into kindergarten at Punahou, Iolani, or one of the Kamehameha Schools. It is not uncommon for rumored feeder preschools to have waiting lists 1-2 years long.
There is much debate over whether attending a feeder preschool is necessary to get into certain private schools. Some question the practice of forcing a child to adapt to the style of a particular preschool, rather than choosing a preschool whose style suits the needs of the child.
Whether they are truly feeder schools or not, these preschools have reputations for offering high-quality programs. But other factors must also be considered when choosing a preschool, not the least of which is the needs of the child, as well as cost, location, teaching style, hours of operation, any religious affiliations, and so on.
The following are just a few of the preschools that a rumored to be feeder preschools:
- Kamehameha Schools – Grades PreK-12 (starting at age 3). NOTE: All students are of Hawaiian ancestry, due to the school’s admission policy. Its preschool program is NAEYC-accredited and was named one of “Hawaii’s Best” for 2010 by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Affiliated with the Protestant Church. Preschool campuses located throughout the state. Grades K-12 located in the Kalihi area of Honolulu; Pukalani, Maui; and Kea’au, Big Island. Annual tuition: $1,670-2,100 for preschool, depending on campus location; $2,971-6,946 for grades K-12, depending on campus location, grade level, and boarding vs. non-boarding.
- Central Union Preschool & Kindergarten (Makiki) – Grades PreK-K (ages 2-6 years). NAEYC-accredited. Affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Located in the Makiki area of Honolulu. Annual tuition: $8,437.
- The Cole Academy (Kaimuki & Downtown) – Ages 6 weeks-5 years. Located in the Kaimuki and downtown areas of Honolulu. Monthly tuition: $885-1,595, depending on age and length of school day.
- The Early School (Moili’ili) – Ages 18 months-5 years. NAEYC-accredited. Located in the Moili’ili area of Honolulu. Monthly tuition: $1,200 for toddler program; $1,000 for preschool program.
Other Reputable Preschools In Hawaii
To find more high-quality preschools throughout Hawaii, search for an NAEYC-accredited program.
To see a list of private schools in Hawaii — some of which include preschool — check out Honolulu Magazine’s annual Private School Guide (skip to pages 51-59 for an alphabetical list, sorted by island).
For more up-to-date, detailed info on moving to Hawaii, check out my e-book: Moving To Hawaii: A Step-By-Step Guide