The Hawaii Board of Education on Thursday will vote on a proposal that would increase the annual pay for teachers in hard-to-fill areas such as special education, rural schools and Hawaiian language immersion to address the state's perennial instructor shortage.
The proposal, backed by Gov. David Ige, is an effort by the state and the Hawaii Department of Education to recruit and retain teachers in those critical areas.
“This is about equity and we need to call it what it is,” said DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. “The department has made a promise to provide equitable access to quality education to every child in Hawaii. Fulfilling this promise begins with the department ensuring that our students have access to high quality teachers.”
The proposal would give special education teachers a $10,000 annual pay increase. Rural teachers would receive up between $3,000 and $8,000 on a tiered system based on schools meeting particular criteria. Hawaiian immersion teachers would receive $8,000 yearly as well.
The estimated cost of the proposal is $14.6 million.
Ige said at a Tuesday press conference that he has made the salary increases a priority in his executive supplemental budget, which he will be submitting to the Legislature in mid-December.
“We are looking at revenues and expenses and prioritizing all of the needs of all of state government so it would clearly have to be one of my priorities to get it into the budget,” he said. “I am certainly engaged and will be before the Legislature with a budget to express my feelings about why it’s important.”
The Legislature will need to approve funding for the proposal for it to take effect.
Kishimoto explained that the proposal is just phase one of a plan to tackle Hawaii’s teacher shortage. She said she intends to return with a phase two proposal to present to the Board of Education that will coincide with the release of a teacher salary study.
“We are both rolling out a comprehensive approach to recruitment and retention that will have multiple factors and then phase two will be the slice of work that we will be pulling out that we think is most critical to happen beginning next school year,” she said.
Kishimoto listed factors that have led to the teacher shortage: cost of living, access to affordable housing and the state’s history of frozen teacher pay where more experienced teachers get paid similarly to less experienced teachers.
The Board of Education will first review the pay increase proposal in a special meeting on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and will vote on the measure at 1:30 p.m. in the Queen Liliuokalani Building, 1390 Miller St., Room 404.