Governor backs pay hikes to recruit, retain teachers

  • Gov. David Ige speaks at the Keahuolu Courthouse dedication in October. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s governor plans to announce support for pay increases to help recruit and retain teachers in special education, rural schools and Hawaiian language immersion, officials said.

Democratic Gov. David Ige scheduled a public announcement today to express his support for pay differentials for those teaching categories, Hawaii Public Radio reported Sunday.


Ige is working with the Hawaii Department of Education and the state Board of Education to address teacher shortages, the governor’s office said.

There were 154 special education vacancies for the 2019-2020 school year, officials said.

The Board of Education is scheduled to meet Thursday to review proposed pay increases, including an annual $10,000 increase for qualified and licensed special education classroom teachers.

The estimated cost for 1,691 special education teachers in fiscal year 2020 is $8.4 million, with the estimate rising to $16.9 million for fiscal year 2021, officials said.

“Special education is a critical shortage area in Hawaii, and a lack of qualified and licensed special education teachers has a direct educational impact on students with special needs,” education department Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said in a letter.

The department also asked the board to approve incentives for rural areas that are difficult to staff. The projected expense for geographic incentives covering 2,109 teachers would be about $6 million for fiscal 2020 and $12.6 million for fiscal 2021, officials said.

In Hawaiian language immersion, the department filled 107 of 161 positions, but only 54 of those appointed meet all requirements, officials said.


“Qualified and licensed Hawaiian language immersion teachers require fluency in the Hawaiian language as well as licensure by the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board, which makes finding interested and qualified candidates very challenging for the department,” Kishimoto said.

The department requested approval of an annual $8,000 differential for Hawaiian teachers with estimated costs of $216,000 for fiscal 2020 and $856,000 in fiscal 2021, officials said.

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