Hawaii Montessori Schools was recently featured in an article in West Hawaii Today highlighting the importance of preschool and the positive impact it can have on the early brain development of children. That’s why parents should try to view preschool not simply as an expense, but as an investment in the future of your child.
“The biggest expense for any preschool is staffing,” said Executive Director of Hawaii Montessori Schools Angeline Geldhof, who employs 20 staff members between the organization’s two campuses in Kona and Waimea. “We are accredited with the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which means we have to set higher standards in terms of staffing our programs, what we provide, our equipment and our facilities. Hawaii Montessori, which has not raised tuition in two years, still charges $10,200 for year-round care, including the summer months.
Despite the dents preschool makes in pocketbooks, which can be daunting for some parents, Director of the Executive Office on Early Learning Lauren Moriguchi said dismissing pre-kindergarten education as an unaffordable, inessential luxury is a mistake.
“Research has shown that 85 percent of brain development occurs before the age of 5,” Moriguchi said. “I would say it’s more important for kids to attend preschool than college.”
A position statement of the Southern Early Childhood Association in Little Rock, Arkansas, says that a child will develop 1,000 trillion synapses — connections between brain cells — during the first three years of his or her life. The more positive the environment, the more effective the child’s learning functions will be as the child ages.
“Experiences and interactions shape children’s brains and design the neural architecture that will influence how they will handle all future experiences,” according to the position statement. “If an infant gets too little stimulation, affection, language and human contact, the development of the brain that depends on those experiences will be deterred or will fail to progress.”
In Hawaii, there are tens of thousands of children missing out on proper education during this vital stage of development. And it isn’t simply a problem of affordability, but also one of opportunity. According to Child Care Aware of America, there were as many as 66,000 children under the age of 6 in need of pre-kindergarten care in the state in 2015, but only 37,000 childcare spaces available.
Hawaii does not allow for public funding of private preschools, but various state programs exist to try and bridge the gap. Geldhof said there are also subsidy programs for families interested exclusively in private preschool education, including Childcare Connections, Preschool Open Doors, the Federal Indigenous Peoples Grant and First to Work. Hawaii Montessori also offers in-house financial aid, which can cut costs by up to 20 percent for those families who qualify.”