Bills aim to create housing vouchers for Hawaii teachers

HILO — Two proposed bills are intended at creating a housing voucher program for full-time teachers employed by the Hawaii Department of Education or at public charter schools.

The bills would authorize the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. to implement the housing program, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Tuesday.

The program would provide vouchers to full-time teachers who teach in “hard-to-fill” schools and whose household income does not exceed 80 percent of the area median income.

The vouchers would not exceed $500 per month.

Neither bill currently includes an appropriation amount.

The bills passed second readings and were referred to the Senate Ways and Means committee.

Ways and Means recommended both bills be passed with amendments.

“Housing subsidy vouchers can be a tool to increase the department’s teacher retention, especially in hard-to-fill geographic areas,” said DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto in written testimony submitted before committee hearings on both bills.

DOE spokeswoman Lindsay Chambers said a housing voucher program for eligible teachers could be a helpful recruitment and retention tool to attract and retain quality educators.

A third bill would allow a state income tax credit up to $500 for pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade teachers and other school officials employed at least 900 hours a school year to help offset personal expenditures.

The bill passed second reading and was referred to the House Finance Committee.


Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald,

  1. Damian Nash February 20, 2019 12:11 pm Reply

    This bill addresses the most important reason why Hawaii is having trouble retaining teachers. After teaching for 20 years on the mainland I chose to move to Kauai. My initial income here was just above the 50% level for Very Low Income, so I had to spend most of my first year finding rent-free situations, like living on a sailboat or camping in an old RV. Seven years later I have taken as many professional development classes as possible and earned a National Board Certification. That moved me back up the salary schedule to where I was on the mainland many years ago. As of 2019 I am making more than the average teacher on, but I am still just barely above the 80% low-income mark, so I no longer qualify for this program. Unfortunately I had to get family loans to survive here for the last seven years, so the reality of my financial situation still makes it difficult to share the rent for a small apartment. But I am not complaining because I am lucky to live on Kauai and teach such golden-hearted students. This bill will make it possible for other new teachers to live for their first few years on Hawaii without suffering extreme financial stress. I completely support it!

    1. Damian Nash February 20, 2019 12:28 pm Reply

      …. more than the average teacher *on Kauai*…

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