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Hawaii voters reject amending constitution to allow public money to fund private preschool


HONOLULU — Hawaii voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed public money to fund private preschool programs.

Fifty-two percent of voters rejected the initiative while about 43 percent voted in favor of it. Constitutional amendments need 50 percent plus one to pass, meaning blank and spoiled votes counted against the initiative, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser ( reported.

Supporters said the measure was needed to help children in a state where nearly half start kindergarten without any preschool. They said a public-private partnership would give more Hawaii children preschool opportunities.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association opposed the measure, saying it would lead to vouchers to attend expensive private preschools.

"Given the debate and media coverage of this issue, there can be no doubt that quality preschool for all children matters to us all," union vice president and Kapolei High School teacher Joan Lewis said in a statement.

Hawaii is the only state with a constitution that prohibits public money going toward private educational programs.

"Unfortunately, Hawaii remains the lone state in the nation where government is not able to contract with nonprofit early education providers for quality early education," said Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Good Beginnings Alliance, the initiative's leading supporter.

Kaneohe resident Jerry Jordan said he voted against the measure because it seemed like an approach to "taxpayer-funded baby-sitting for families where both parents are working."

Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser,

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