This was a banner year for Hawaiʻi’s keiki.
Thanks to the efforts of Children’s Policy Agenda members, along with community leaders and advocates, lawmakers took long-awaited action to help families make ends meet by raising the minimum wage, improving an important tax credit for low- and moderate-income families, and restoring funding for the Preschool Open Doors subsidy.
We also made major headway on priorities to bolster children’s care and education. The Legislature passed a bill to collect data on the state’s child care workforce, which is the first step in solving the current child care crisis. Legislators also approved efforts to increase wages of public school teachers, coordinate summer learning programs, make public schools safer for students with asthma, and recognize September 2022 as Child Care Provider Appreciation Month.
This year, we closed two major gaps in Medicaid coverage for Hawaiʻi families by extending postpartum coverage to 12 months and restoring dental benefits to adult enrollees. Another successful Children’s Policy Agenda initiative will establish a pilot visitation and family resource center at Waiawa Correctional Facility to support the children and families of incarcerated individuals.
Hawaiʻi’s children have long felt the effects of underinvestment — their economic well-being ranks 44th in the country. This year, policymakers took the opportunity to start turning the tide, working collaboratively with community members to pass significant priorities from the Children’s Policy Agenda. There’s more work to be done, and we hope to build on this progress in the years to come.
About the Hawaiʻi Children’s Policy Agenda
This seventh annual Hawaiʻi Children’s Policy Agenda, published by Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network Speaks!, reflects the input of 33 Community Champion members. These organizations, coalitions, and individuals are committed to improving the lives of our keiki by promoting public policy changes that benefit children’s health, safety, education, and economic security.
The Agenda contained 23 priorities for the 2022 Hawaiʻi State Legislative Session, which were the top priority issues of our Community Champion members. Ultimately, 11 of those priorities passed in bills or resolutions this year.
HCAN Speaks! respects the diversity, expertise, perspectives, and priorities within this community of advocates and is honored to advance the work of our peers in children’s advocacy. HCAN Speaks! supports all of the items in the Agenda. Each initiative is led by an organization that serves as the primary point of contact for advocacy.
Big wins for keiki
These bills reflect priorities from the 2022 Hawaiʻi Children’s Policy Agenda.
Increase the minimum wage and give workers a bigger tax refund.
HB 2510 | The minimum wage will increase incrementally to $18 by 2028. This also makes the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) permanent, and improves the EITC to make it fully available to the lowest-income families.
Lead: Hawaiʻi Children's Action Network Speaks! and Raise Up Hawaiʻi
Make public schools safer for students with asthma.
SB 2822 | Authorizes the Department of Education to offer optional asthma education instruction to students and provide asthma training to teachers and other department employees who interact with students.
Lead: American Lung Association In Hawaiʻi
Designate Child Care Provider Appreciation Month.
HCR 69 / HR 62, SR 48 | September 2022 will be recognized as Child Care Provider Appreciation Month in Hawaiʻi.
Lead: Hawaiʻi Children's Action Network Speaks!
Support the children and families of incarcerated individuals.
HB 1741 | Establishes a pilot visitation and family resource center at Waiawa Correctional Facility on Oahu whose staff includes trauma-informed professionals who serve as liaisons and hookele for families affected by incarceration. Requires the Department of Human Services to continue to lead a working group to address visitation and support needs of children and families of incarcerated individuals.
Lead: Blueprint for Change
Collect data on the state’s child care workforce.
SB 2700 | Authorizes the Department of Human Services to require the staff of licensed and registered early childhood programs to annually provide specific information to the Department's Early Childhood Workforce Registry. Requires a report to the Legislature.
Lead: Hawaiʻi Children's Action Network Speaks!
Coordinate summer learning programs to better address learning loss.
SB 2818 | Establishes the position of Summer Learning Coordinator within the Department of Education. Makes an appropriation to fund the position.
Lead: Hawaiʻi Afterschool Alliance
Fix teacher salary compression.
SB 2819 | Teacher salaries are inequitable when experienced senior teachers are aligned with less senior teachers in their placement within existing salary schedules. Unfair pay scales have driven experienced senior teachers to either retire early or leave the profession, due to the perception that their experience and dedication to public education and the teaching profession will never be adequately valued and recognized.
Lead: Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association
Restore adult Medicaid dental benefits.
HB 1600 | Provides funding to reinstate the basic package of diagnostic, preventive, and restorative dental benefits to adult Medicaid enrollees. Oral health is a family issue, and when parents have access to dental prevention services, their whole family will benefit.
Lead: Hawaiʻi Oral Health Coalition
Extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months.
HB 1600 | Provides funding to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months following the end of pregnancy. 50% of the state’s maternal deaths between 2015-2016 were between 43 days to one year after delivery, when many women previously lost their Medicaid coverage.
Leads: AlohaCare, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Hawaiʻi Section
Fund differentials for hard-to-fill positions in public schools.
HB 1600 | Provides funding for various teacher differentials to help address labor shortages in the areas of special education, hard-to-staff geographic locations, and Hawaiian language immersion programs.
Lead: Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association
Restore funding for Preschool Open Doors subsidy.
HB 1600 | In 2021, the Preschool Open Doors subsidy was cut by $7 million. This year, that funding was restored, providing greater access to preschool programs for children the year before kindergarten.
Lead: Hawaiʻi Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance
These bills were not part of the Hawaiʻi Children’s Policy Agenda but represent additional wins for our keiki and families.
Provide free period products in public schools.
SB 2821 | Requires the Department of Education to provide menstrual products free of charge to all students on all public school campuses.
Expand access to pre-K through the School Facilities Authority.
HB 2000 | Provides $200 million to the School Facilities Authority to expand access to pre-kindergarten through building new facilities, renovating existing facilities, or other efforts to increase pre-kindergarten student capacity.
Efforts to end the youth vaping crisis were cut short.
Although the Legislature passed HB 1570 to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, they excluded from the ban products authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration — a major loophole that exempts more than 1,000 products. (Governor Ige ultimately vetoed HB 1570.) HB 598 would have imposed additional e-cigarette regulations, but did not pass.
A pilot project to retain and recruit early childhood educators did not pass.
SB 2701 would have created a one-year pilot project to increase wages to a minimum of $17 for 5% of the state’s child care workers. Increasing compensation has been cited as the number one way to increase retention and recruitment for early childhood educators in Hawaiʻi.
Action deferred to bolster school psychologists.
SB 2281 and SB 2823 would have created a state credential for school psychologists and implemented a pay bonus for those who maintain a national credential. These measures would have helped to alleviate critical shortages of school psychologists in the state.
Other bills in the Children’s Policy Agenda were not passed.
These community-driven priorities included creating a dedicated funding stream to support early childhood programs, ending taxes on diapers, expanding Career and Technical Education electives, implementing a community schools strategy, providing paid leave leave for parents of NICU babies, requiring insurers to cover the full range of sexual and reproductive health care, ensuring all keiki have safe routes to school, and providing training to teachers on preventing sex trafficking and on comprehensive sexual health topics.
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About HCAN Speaks!
Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network Speaks! is a nonpartisan 501(c)4 nonprofit working to ensure all keiki are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. We give Hawaiʻi residents the tools they need to change systems and policies, hold leaders accountable, and make informed voting decisions. We are honored to be the convener and coordinator of the pro-child organizations, coalitions, and individuals who participated in this Agenda.