HONOLULU — The State House Committee on Education held a virtual informational briefing last week to listen to reports from state education officials about the budget-related impacts of funding cuts on students and education.
The Hawai’i State Library’s State Librarian Stacey Aldrich said the digital public library’s door is open and became a resourceful tool for residents statewide since the pandemic began.
“It wasn’t just our digital support that was important — what was important was the people,” Aldrich said. “In May, we launched our library take-out digital reservations. People ordered online and picked up their reserved books outside of the library. We are also a part of the broadband, people still don’t have anywhere else to connect, we are that place.”
During the pandemic, libraries statewide added more eBooks, virtual programs, a movie streaming system, an online library card app, programs for students, and Scholastic Teachables to accommodate keiki and adults.
Aldrich said E-RATE is a program that allowed the libraries to get up to par to provide support for internet connectivity and equipment for schools and libraries through a federal program.
“We did apply and we did receive support for funding to replace all of our equipment in all of our branches to upgrade connectivity in all of our branches,” Aldrich said.
The Hawai’i State Library’s proposed operational budget for both fiscal years 2022 and 2023 is $33,578,267 to cover all 51 public libraries.
“We are subject to the hiring freeze,” Aldrich said. “Sixty-nine of 114 positions we don’t have the funding for. The hiring freeze is an issue, but having less funding as we see more cuts that cut into the money we have for the position, so we are very strategic.”
Aldrich said the state libraries have been asking for exceptions on some of the hiring freeze.
“We just received approval to fill our five regional libraries that are vacant right now and the IT position,” Aldrich said. “I been overseeing IT for the past year, it will be nice to finally get an IT position and our data position that reports our data to the federal government.”
The Hawai‘i State Library proposed capital improvement plan (CIP) budget of $5 million dollars was approved for both the FY2022 and the FY2023 recently by the state legislation, according to Aldrich’s Special Assistant Mallory Fujitani.
“We just want to thank the legislature for supporting our CIP budget funding request each year, which we usually asked for,” Aldrich said. “We’d like to have the funding available to do other repair work with renovation work that also requires libraries to be closed.”
Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL)’s Government Affairs Specialist Jordana Ferreira explained that her office works across state departments, organizations, and sectors for a comprehensive and integrated early childhood system by coordinating and improving the early childhood system.
Besides Head Start, EOEL oversees the Department of Education Preschool Special Education, home visiting service providers, and license-exempt care providers.
EOEL also provides Family-Child Interaction Learning program providers and private providers and schools.
“Our program provides early care and early learning experiences and is among the highest-rated public prekindergarten programs in the nation,” Ferreira said.
EOEL’s FY2021 to FY2023 includes a reduction of $1,325,711, totaling $9,097,515.
Over the next three years, EOEL plans to add 10 new Public Pre-K classrooms, including 20 FTE total for Teacher and Education Assistant positions. Ferreira said some funds were allocated for their Early Learning Academy and Early Learning Induction Program.
Source: The Garden Island