HSTA president: Pay is the problem

LIHUE — Hawaii’s teacher shortage has reached “crisis proportions,” according to Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee, who appeared before the Board of Education Thursday to address the state’s ongoing struggles to retain qualified educators.

In the last six years, the number of teachers leaving Hawaii for the mainland has increased by 71 percent, according to figures released by the Department of Education. Over 420 of the state’s roughly 13,000 teachers left Hawaii last year. The teacher shortage increased slightly this year, with more than 1,000 vacancies, according to the HSTA.

The problem goes beyond a need for staffing. Rosenlee said a large number of the remaining teachers are inexperienced, as new recruits are constantly needed to replace those that have left, a situation which ultimately has a negative impact on student achievement, particularly in schools serving low-income students and students of color where turnover rates are highest.

The shortage is hurting the state financially as well, according to Rosenlee, who said that teacher replacement expenses related to separation, recruitment, hiring and training can range from $9,000 per teacher in rural districts to more than $20,000 in urban areas.

“Unfortunately, the real cost of teacher attrition is paid not by the state, but by our students,” Rosenlee said.

A response from DOE Assistant Superintendent Cynthia Covell to a request for comment on the issue did not mention additional public school funding.

“As the largest employer in the state, we have a tremendous responsibility to recruit and develop quality employees, who are our greatest asset,” Covell wrote in an email. “Our data show that we are hiring more experienced teachers and continue to reduce our vacancies. There is still room for improvement and we will continue to implement innovative talent management strategies, including growing our local talent pool, tapping into former military personnel through Troops to Teachers, alternate paths to teaching and alternative pathways to licensure.”

The solution, in Rosenlee’s opinion, is a straightforward one.

“The most glaring source of the teacher retention problem is pay,” he said, adding that Hawaii’s high cost of living, coupled with current teacher salaries, often leaves new educators in an unsustainable financial situation.

“Hawaii’s teachers are not only poorly compensated when they start — their future outlook is also quite bleak,” Rosenlee said, describing an “appalling lack of upward mobility.”

He concluded with a plea on behalf of the teacher’s association, asking policy makers for additional public school funding that would allow for better teacher compensation.

“HSTA asks you to focus on this issue. It cannot be overlooked,” Rosenlee said.


Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cloehrer@thegardenisland.com.

  1. Da Shadow November 16, 2018 4:23 am Reply

    Good thing tax-paying (AKA teacher paying) vacation renters are still prohibited from staying in Wainiha & Haena. Obviously the state doesn’t seem to need those funds.

  2. harry oyama November 16, 2018 8:49 am Reply

    I was once recruited to enroll in the teacher program while working on my master’s degree, but after doing my own personal research, found out how inappropriate it is. First of all the entire top heavy bloated BOE administration is a primary problem where so called “complex superindendents” are nothing but a bogus title that over compensates these bureaucrats who are just politically self serving parasites some getting more than the governor.

    They often fix contracts that are worth $millions and set themselves up before retiring so that only they have the “required” credentials to be hired as contractors as soon as they retire making much more while collecting a for life State pension based on the last high three years that was just given a raise in spite of what they say “teachers need to increase their salaries”.

    How do you think these “superindendents” came up with this inflated figure of over $100,000 for air condition cooling for each classroom, when in fact it’ll cost just a fraction to go down to Home Depot and put up an air condition unit and plug it in?

    It is a ruse when these same administrators say we need more money when in fact no audit has been made for the last 10 years! So how do you know where your money is spent when the DOE budget is the biggest funding in the State of over several billion dollars?

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