BOE Passes Teacher Pay Increases 7-2

December 5, 2019, 3:49 PM HST (Updated December 5, 2019, 5:52 PM)
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Educators in specialized fields and hard-to-staff geographical areas are on track to receive extra compensation by January.

The Hawai‘i State Board of Education (BOE) approved the Department’s proposal to provide extra compensation for classroom teachers in three high-need areas: special education, hard-to-staff geographical locations, and Hawaiian language immersion programs. The Board voted 7-2 in favor of implementing the pay differentials, which are scheduled to take effect Jan. 7.

“I’m proud of the superintendent (Christine Kishimoto) for taking such bold action,” said Complex Area Superintendent Chad Keone Farias of the Ka’u-Kea’au-Pahoa Complex Area.

BOE Chairwoman Catherine Payne was humbled by the turnout today of students, teachers and community stakeholders who took the time to voice their support and concerns over the proposal at Thursday’s meeting.

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“On behalf of the Board, we heard you and we took action based on what we believe to be in the best interest of our haumana, especially those in high-need areas,” Payne said. “This momentous decision was about trying something new and looking for bold strategies that will address teacher staffing issues that not only plague Hawaii, but districts across the nation as well. We have an opportunity to be innovative and set the bar high.”

The approved proposal allows for an annual shortage differential of $10,000 per each qualified and licensed special education classroom teacher; and an annual differential of $8,000 per each qualified and licensed Hawaiian language immersion classroom teacher.

The BOE also approved to create a 4-tiered system, based on vacancy rates in rural areas, that provide annual shortage differentials ranging from $3,000-$8,000.

Farias is in charge of one the most challenging complexes in the state due to its remote location. Retention and recruitment are difficult because once teachers obtain tenure they’re looking for jobs closer to home.

Farias explained that many of the teachers are commuting 120 miles round trip to get to the schools in East Hawaii.

“Many positions that are short are those impacting students who really need it most,” he said.

Thursday’s dissenting votes came from Nolan Kawano and Dwight Takeno. Farias explained the board members weren’t against the proposal they were questioning the details and if the money was enough.

Implementation of this initiative is timed around recruitment deadlines for the 2020-21 school year along with ongoing retention efforts to keep teachers in those hard-to-staff locations.

Kishimoto was thrilled with their collective decision to move forward boldly to address a long-standing challenge.

“We have tremendous teachers in the Department who deserve to receive competitive pay, acknowledgement and support. We are the promise to our haumana,” Kishimoto added.

Following the Board’s approval, the Department will send a request to Gov. David Ige to include the necessary funding in his executive budget request to the Legislature. The governor earlier this week supported the proposal at a press conference alongside the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Click here to read the full proposal.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.

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