Teacher vacancies drop this year partly because of HSTA advocacy
Higher pay, compression raises, shortage differentials help attract and keep educators in classrooms
News Release from HSTA, August 4, 2023
The Hawai‘i State Department of Education reports a significant decrease in the number of teacher vacancies this school year – roughly 340 – compared to more than 1,000 vacancies at the start of last school year.
“The big drop in educator vacancies is a direct result of pay hikes and other important improvements the HSTA has advocated for in recent years,” said Hawai‘i State Teachers Association President Osa Tui, Jr.
“From higher pay in the contract that starts with bigger paychecks this month, to fixing compressed pay for veteran educators last year, to shortage differentials created three years ago, the HSTA successfully fought for one increase after another and our keiki are being better served with less teacher turnover as a result,” Tui added.
Under the four-year contract that began this school year, most teachers will receive raises of about 5% which will begin showing up in the paychecks of 10-month teachers on Aug. 17. Twelve-month and multi-track teachers should have seen an increase on July 20, with their first paychecks of the 2023–2024 school year.
Returning teachers who did not receive a compression pay adjustment last school year will receive one-time $3,000 lump sum payments in their Sept. 5 paychecks.
The HIDOE told KHON2 it filled 189 teaching positions with emergency hires this school year. Under the HSTA’s new contract, their starting pay jumped from about $39,000 to $50,000 this year.
“Hopefully that would entice more to join us and make it easier for those of us who are already on the field to survive,” said Logan Okita, a teacher at Nimitz Elementary School and HSTA’s vice president.
After advocacy by HSTA, HIDOE debuts new online jobs portal
The HIDOE credits a new online teaching jobs portal, something the HSTA requested years ago, with helping to bring down vacancies this year.
Launched May 16, the portal allows teacher candidates to apply for positions at their preferred schools and choose teaching subjects in which they are interested. Previously, interested candidates would apply to an open job pool and then be sent to a school with a vacant position. The portal also aims to fill positions faster.
“We moved away from pool-based recruiting to community-based recruiting,” HIDOE Recruitment Administrator Gary Nakamura told Honolulu Civil Beat.
The platform has gathered more than 3,400 teacher applications so far and 967 new teachers are being brought into the system for the new school year, Civil Beat reported this week.
HSTA President Tui said, “It’s nice that these teaching applicants have access to the portal. Many of our current teachers would like to have similar access to openings throughout the state and they do not. Disparities between positions teachers already in the system have access to and positions new hires have access to must be fixed.”
Former HSTA president Corey Rosenlee, a social studies teacher at Campbell High School, said, “Kudos to the HIDOE for finally creating a portal. We’ve been asking them to do this for years.”
Bringing teachers from the Philippines only a temporary solution
This year the state hired 80 educators from the Philippines as a part of its recruitment efforts to fill vacancies across the state; 10 are preparing for classes to start next week at Lāna‘i High and Elementary School.
They are allowed to teach in Hawai‘i on three-year contracts that can be extended to a maximum of five years through the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 Visa program.
That’s less than ideal because Hawai‘i’s students need educators who will stay for decades or their entire careers to stabilize our teaching workforce.
“We want to do everything we can to get especially local folks to get into these teaching positions because they’ll have roots. When something goes bad, they don’t just fly away to the mainland or wherever they came from,” said Tui, HSTA’s president.
On its teacher recruiting website, HIDOE said, “We are pleased to announce that we have secured limited funding to provide a one-time, taxable $2,000 relocation bonus for eligible individuals who are recruited from out-of-state and hired for the upcoming 2023–2024 school year.” The teachers from the Philippines are eligible for that relocation bonus.
In January, the Hawai‘i Teacher Standards Board rejected a request by the state education department for an exception to the state’s teacher licensing requirements that would have granted teachers recruited from the Philippines provisional licenses. HIDOE unsuccessfully asked for permission to hire them without meeting HTSB’s basic skills and content knowledge requirements and Social Security number requirements.
McKinley High special education teacher Laverne Moore said, “The special treatment that they gave to those 80 teachers from the Philippines, that same special treatment should be given to our local educators, our long-term substitutes, our educational assistants who are here and going to stay.”
“Invest in our people here. Homegrown is our best remedy for the teacher shortage crisis. They will be our base for the future,” said Moore, HSTA’s teacher lobbyist who appeared live on HNN’s Sunrise program Thursday morning.
Last month, Jonathan Okamura, a University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa emeritus professor who spent most of his career in UH’s Ethnic Studies Department, wrote an opinion piece about the recruiting effort in Honolulu Civil Beat. He said bringing in teachers from the Philippines will help decrease the teacher shortage and increase the number of Filipino educators in public schools, which numbered just 8% before the cadre of recruits arrived this school year.
But Okamura added that HIDOE should also focus teacher recruitment efforts on Filipino educators already in our state.
“While I fully support the hiring of teachers from the Philippines,” Okamura wrote, “I also am aware that in Hawai‘i there are already hundreds of, and probably more, Filipino immigrants, who are former teachers with college degrees in education and teaching experience. The DOE should consider recruiting some of them to become public school teachers.”
Long-term efforts needed to attack teacher shortage crisis
Several other efforts are underway to help attract and retain more public school educators in the state. They include:
- A new initiative approved by state lawmakers and the governor to build tens of millions of dollars in housing for public school employees on Maui, Hawai‘i Island, Kaua‘i and O‘ahu.
- A Grow Our Own program that offers free college tuition to educational assistants, instructors and others who lack undergraduate degrees.
- A paid teacher internship program to encourage more people to enter the field.
- A registered teacher apprenticeship program, which HIDOE and the Board of Education have identified as a goal in their strategic plan.
- Programs for recent high school graduates to get certified as substitute teachers in partnership with HIDOE and schools such as Waipahu High, Farrington High and Pearl City High.