In the six years since I founded HawaiiKidsCAN, many bills have been signed into law to improve educational outcomes for the keiki who live on the islands. The 2023 legislative session was no exception, with several bills and resolutions ending up on the governor’s desk to enhance access to mental health supports and out-of-school tutoring, as well as improvements to computer science education, work-based learning opportunities, and non-traditional learning. 

After working in partnership with many great organizations and individuals across the state and the country, I’m proud to end this year’s session with two bills highly likely to be signed into law and three resolutions passed through the legislature. None of this work would be possible without the partnership of partners at Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Hawaii P-20, Kamehameha Schools, the Hawaii Department of Education, and countless other advocates and experts who generously gave their time and knowledge to this work. The culmination of that work is a tangible product – signed legislation – which we eagerly look forward to watching as it makes a difference for our students and our communities. 

We launched this legislative session with several policy goals, and I am proud to announce the following achievements as well as a handful of areas to learn and grow from. 

Check out our video version of this update that includes perspectives from parents, students, and community leaders.

On Computer Science Education:

Since 2018, HawaiiKidsCAN has successfully advocated for three computer science education bills that passed out of the legislature. House Bill 503 is the fourth successful piece of legislation we have helped develop and support, this time in collaboration with our partners at, as it made its way through the House and the Senate all the way to the governor’s desk. Like previous efforts, HB503 is all about increasing access to computer science education. 

As a result of these collective efforts, every public elementary, middle, and intermediate school must offer computer science courses or content by the start of the 2024-2025 academic year. All high schools have had this requirement since 2021, but the expansion to lower levels of education will pique interest, increase experience, and better prepare students for more rigorous and relevant coursework later on. 

Furthermore, House Bill 503 requires the Hawaii Board of Education to investigate several other aspects of computer science education and consider making other requirements for computer science across the state. This provision in the bill was found necessary after the Hawaii Board of Education failed to put computer science on any of their agendas after 2018, despite multiple requests. Now, they are tasked with exploring the possibility of a graduation requirement, which would require all students to complete at least one computer science course in order to graduate with their high school diploma. This step is seen as one way to guarantee access and exposure to computer science, especially for historically underrepresented students who are much less likely to otherwise enroll in a course. 


On Mental Health Supports:

Senate Bill 894 also successfully made its way through the legislature and likely into law. HawaiiKidsCAN helped create the State Office of Wellness and Resilience (OWR) last year through one of our priority bills. The OWR has an incredibly important task to make Hawaii a trauma-informed state. 

Given that the OWR is brand new, Senate Bill 894 makes important structural changes to ensure that the office has long term impact and stability. This bill will strengthen the OWR converts the state’s Trauma-Informed Care Task Force into an advisory board for the OWR that extends through the summer of 2025.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer classified as a public health emergency, we know that its aftereffects are still manifesting in our communities. We are proud of our state for establishing a proactive, institutional component that can help increase mental health outcomes for students, individuals, and families, and we are extremely grateful to see that the state is continuing to invest in the OWR to contribute to a happier, healthier Hawaii for future generations. 


On Work-Based Learning:

Our efforts towards expanding opportunities for work-based learning in Hawaii were a mixed bag, with one concurrent resolution passed but a major bill stalling in the final stages of the legislative process. Senate Bill 801 was written in collaboration with our colleagues at the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, the Hawaii Department of Education, Hawaii P-20, and other expert individuals in the field. Modeled after other impactful policies across the nation, it was designed to incentivize employers to hire interns for skilled positions in healthcare, information technology, and other industries with tax credit programs. Ultimately, the bill passed out of three committees failed to get scheduled for a hearing by the House Committee on Finance, as the committee was generally unsupportive of tax credit bills this year. We remain committed to exploring and presenting other opportunities that will give Hawaii youth access to meaningful work-based learning opportunities that make them more likely to see career success in their futures.

While we are disappointed in the outcome of SB 801, we are excited that the House Concurrent Resolution 58 was presented to both chambers at the Capitol, and ultimately passed through both. It requires the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to complete a comparative study of its policies on youth employment and the federal requirements for youth employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and to present its findings to the legislature before the 2024 session. Given that it has been nearly two decades since any meaningful review of current policies, and that innovations like work-based learning and career academies have exploded in local schools, this is the ideal time to see how policy can be amended to better protect and support students. It is our hope that this investigation will spark more conversations around youth employment and how to ensure appropriate work opportunities are accessible, well-compensated, and help them grow into productive careers in the future. 


On Access to Tutoring:

While tutoring has always been a powerful education support tool, sometimes associated with wealthy families, the need for 1:1 and small group support in the public school system has grown tremendously since the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hawaii Department of Education previously allocated funding from COVID-relief programs for tutoring, but House Resolution 159 promotes tutoring access beyond the pandemic to not only stem learning loss, but to specifically address gaps experienced by underrepresented students. We believe in this initiative because we’ve already seen the impact it can have, specifically through our Hawaii Tutoring initiative, and heard directly from parents who want these services for their children. 


On Non-Traditional Learning: 

The third resolution we championed, House Resolution 185, not only advocates for a progressive education system, but for native Hawaiian principles: ‘A’ohe pau ke ‘ike ka hālau ho’okahi (all knowledge is not taught in the same school). This resolution charges the Board of Education with producing a report on ways to expand non-traditional learning opportunities, with options for students to receive credit towards graduation, prior to the 2024 legislative session. We firmly believe that these opportunities will not only enhance the education of our students academically, but also adapt their learning to each individual’s interests and strengths. 


Mahalo to our many partners who made this year possible!


Bill sponsors and co-sponsors


  • HB503: Representatives: Woodson, Amato, Cochran, Gates, Hashimoto, Kila, Lowen, Marten, Matayoshi, Morikawa, Nakashima, Tarnas, Todd, Poepoe, Takenouchi, Tam
  • SB894: Senators: San Buenaventura, Mckelvey, Keith-Agaran
  • HCR58: Representatives: Matayoshi, Garrett
  • HR185: Representatives: Hashimoto, Matayoshi
  • HR159: Representatives – Matayoshi, Chun, Garrett, Hashimoto, Kapela, Kila, Kitagawa, La Chica, Marten, Morikawa, Nakashima, Perruso, Tarnas
  • SB801: Senator DeCoite
  • SB816: Senators: Dela Cruz, Chang, Keith-Agaran, McKelvey, Shimabukuro, Kidani, Moriwaki, Wakai
  • HB487: Representative Belatti
  • HB399: Representatives: Holt, Gates, Hashimoto, Kila, Lamosao, Marten, Martinez, Takenouchi, Todd, Woodson, Cochran
  • SR150: Senator Keith-Agaran



  • HB503 conference committee
  • Senate Conferees: Kidani Chair; Wakai Co-Chair; Kanuha
  • House Conferees: Woodson, Perruso, Morikawa Co-Chairs; Kapela, Garcia
  • SB894 conference committee
  • Senate Conferees: McKelvey Chair; Shimabukuro, Kidani Co-Chairs; Aquino, Awa
  • House Conferees: Mizuno, Belatti, Kobayashi Co-Chairs; Amato, Garcia
  • Senate Committee on Education
  • Chair: Sen. Michelle Kidani
  • Vice Chair: Sen. Donna Mercado Kim
  • Dru Mamo Kanuha
  • Herbert M. “Tim” Richards, III
  • Kurt Fevella
  • House Committee on Finance
      • Chair: Rep. Kyle Yamashita
      • Vice Chair: Lisa Kitagawa
      • Micah P.K. Aiu
      • Cory M. Chun
      • Elle Cochran
      • Andrew Takuya Garrett
      • Kirstin Kahaloa
      • Darius K. Kila
      • Bertrand Kobayashi
      • Rachele F. Lamosao
      • Dee Morikawa
      • Scott Y. Nishimoto
      • Mahina Poepoe
      • Jenna Takenouchi
      • David Alcos III
      • Gene Ward
    • House Committee on Education
      • Chair: Rep. Justin Woodson
      • Vice Chair: Rep. Lisa Marten
      • Luke A. Evslin
      • Jeanne Kapela
      • Trish La Chica
      • Rose Martinez
      • Scot Z. Matayoshi
      • Amy A. Perruso
      • Sean Quinlan
      • Chris Todd
      • Diamond Garcia
    • House Committee on Health & Homelessness
      • Chair: Rep. Dela Au Belatti
      • Vice Chair: Jenna Takenouchi
      • Terez Amato
      • Greggor Ilagan
      • Bertrand Kobayashi
      • John M. Mizuno
      • Scott Y. Nishimoto
      • Diamond Garcia
    • House Committee on Human Services
      • Chair: Rep. John Mizuno
      • Vice Chair: Rep. Terez Amato
      • Della Au Belatti
      • Greggor Ilagan
      • Bertrand Kobayashi
      • Scott Y. Nishimoto
      • Jenna Takenouchi
      • Diamond Garcia
  • House Committee on Economic Development
      • Chair: Rep. Daniel Holt
      • Vice Chair: Rep. Rachele Lamosao
      • Natalia Hussey-Burdick
      • Sam Satoru Kong
      • Trish La Chica
      • Nadine K. Nakamura
      • Sean Quinlan
      • Elijah Pierick
  • Senate Committee on Ways and Means
      • Chair: Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz
      • Vice Chair: Gilbert Keith-Agaran
      • Henry J.C. Aquino
      • Lynn DeCoite
      • Lorraine R. Inouye
      • Dru Mamo Kanuha
      • Michelle N. Kidani
      • Donna Mercado Kim
      • Chris Lee
      • Sharon Y. Moriwaki
      • Maile S.L. Shimabukuro
      • Glenn Wakai
      • Kurt Fevella
  • Senate Committee on Health and Human Services
      • Chair: Sen. Joy San Buenaventura
      • Vice Chair: Henry Aquino
      • Sharon Y. Moriwaki
      • Maile S.L. Shimabukuro
      • Brenton Awa
  • Senate Committee on Government Operations
      • Chair: Sen. Angus McKelvey
      • Vice Chair: Sen. Mike Gabbard
      • Joy A. San Buenaventura
      • Glenn Wakai
      • Brenton Awa
  • Senate Committee on Labor and Technology
      • Chair: Sen. Sharon Moriwaki
      • Vice Chair: Sen. Chris Lee
      • Les Ihara, Jr.
      • Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran
      • Kurt Fevella
  • House Committee on Higher Education & Technology
      • Chair: Rep. Amy Perruso
      • Vice Chair: Rep. Jeanne Kapela
      • Luke A. Evslin
      • Trish La Chica
      • Lisa Marten
      • Rose Martinez
      • Scot Z. Matayoshi
      • Sean Quinlan
      • Chris Todd
      • Justin H. Woodson
      • Diamond Garcia
  • House Committee on Labor & Government Operations
    • Chair: Rep. Scot Matayoshi
    • Vice Chair: Andrew Garrett
    • Jeanne Kapela
    • Rose Martinez
    • Jackson D. Sayama
    • Adrian K. Tam
    • David Alcos III


  • The McClellan Group
  • Chamber of Commerce Hawaii
  • Hawaii P-20
  • Department of Labor and Industrial Relations
  • Department of Taxation
  • Jessica Nadzam
  • Brett Tanaka
  • Amber Davis
  • Tia Roberts Hartsock
  • Celeste Endo
  • Sarah “Mili” Milianta-Laffin
  • Trevor Abarzua
  • Keala Peters
  • Lord Ryan Lizardo
  • Erin Yagi
  • Stephen Schatz
  • Warren Kawano
  • Eliza Talbot
  • Sherry Menor-McNamara
  • Nālani Kealaiki
  • Jarret Yip
  • Jade Butay
  • Gary Suganuma
  • Pearl City High School
  • Daphne Okunaga
  • The Rev. Prof. Gregory Johnson
  • Sarah Lee Morihara
  • Lauren Avery
  • Unyong Nakata
  • Allyn Y Tabata
  • Gary Wong
  • Terrance Arashiro
  • Linda Kawamura
  • Derek Mukai
  • Faith Rex
  • Claudia Crist
  • Jackie Kaina
  • Anne Reis
  • Tim Carson
  • Elden Ito
  • Bernard Nunies
  • Ryan Yanagihara
  • Michael Nawaiki OConnell
  • Karlo Tanjuakio
  • Jon Henry Lee
  • Bernadette Tyrell
  • Dr. Saba Kam
  • Lynelle Marble 
  • Nick Allday
  • Kiran Polk
  • Lin Hadama
  • Brian Tatsumura
  • Katie Taladay
  • Jason Higa
  • Gregory Hester
  • Courtney Suma
  • Bruce Meyers
  • Ryan Ashlock
  • Brook Conner
  • Dr. Lynn Babington
  • Michael A. Pietsch
  • Lori Lum
  • Liuone Faagai

David is the founding executive director of HawaiiKidsCAN. He lives in Honolulu, HI.


Recent Posts

More posts from Uncategorized

See All Posts