Big Island Polls

What did voters think is biggest need for Big Island schools?

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Fifth-grade teacher Daphna Ehrenhalt teaches a class during the 2022-23 academic year at Keaʻau Elementary School on the Big Island. (File photo courtesy of the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association)

The 2023-24 academic year is underway for students throughout the islands.

Despite making strides in some areas, however, Hawai‘i’s public schools still battle problems, including a school bus driver shortage, aging infrastructure, teacher vacancies, teacher burnout, inconsistent or poor security and even not having an on-site kitchen to prepare school meals.

So, we asked its readers last week what they thought was the biggest need for Big Island schools.


Increased pay for the state’s public school teachers topped the results, garnering 331 of the total 954 cast, or 34%. Teacher pay continues to be a concern, even with a new contract that raised the average annual pay for teachers by 3.4%.

The 4-year deal has been touted by some as “the best contract we’ve ever had.” While it was a win, others say it still isn’t enough. Many public school teachers spend their own money or raise funds to supplement school supplies and materials. In fact, that was No. 5 in this week’s results, with 72 votes, or 7%.

Plus, the cost of living in Hawai‘i remains at an all-time high.


Repairs/renovations to aging schools came in second with 171 votes, or 17%, and better teacher recruitment was third with 113 votes, or 11%. Rounding out the top five was transportation to and from school, which got 99 votes, or 10% of the total.

“I see many families in Hawai‘i that either don’t have reliable transportation, can’t afford fuel or can’t take their kids to school due to their work schedule,” said Susan Regeimbal “I voted for transportation because I think all the other choices can only help if we get the kids to the school. All the other choices are very important and no single thing is going to fix the problems that we have!”

Here are the full poll results:

  • Increased teacher pay: 331 (34%).
  • Repairs/renovations to aging schools: 171 (17%).
  • Better teacher recruitment: 113 (11%).
  • Transportation to and from school: 99 (10%).
  • More funding for school supplies and teaching materials/equipment: 72 (7%).
  • More air-conditioned classrooms: 57 (5%).
  • Improved security measures: 41 (4%).
  • More after-school programs: 35 (3%).
  • Additional extracurricular activities: 23 (2%).
  • New or improved kitchen facilities: 12 (1%).

Total votes: 954.

It wasn’t one of the choices, but one reader commented about the short summer break students have between school years.

“First week of August and kids are back in school!?” said Donald Klees. “So much for them having a real summer.”

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at
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