Teacher shortage becoming a growing concern in Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) — The number of Hawaii teachers quitting their jobs and leaving the state is becoming a growing concern.

The Department of Education’s employment reports show that 411 teachers resigned and left the state from 2016-17, up from 223 in 2010.

Fewer graduates from Hawaii teacher education programs are entering the profession.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee told the Board of Education’s Human Resources Committee Thursday that the number of graduates joining the Department of Education fell by nearly 30 percent, from 545 in the 2010-11 school year to 387 in the 2016-17 school.

“This is of course a huge alarm,” he said. “We have a collision of two really big problems.”

The state’s high cost of living and low teacher salaries are among the factors driving away Hawaii educators.

Carrie Rose is one of the teachers leaving the state. She worked as a special education teacher at Waialua Elementary School and is getting ready to move to Colorado.

The decision to leave was not easy, she said.

“I love what I do, I love the people I work with, and I have great staff and administration,” she said. “But providing my kids with a quality of life in Hawaii is just becoming harder and harder each year.”

She has accepted a job in Colorado Springs, Colo., despite the fact that it comes with a pay cut.

“When you compare the cost of living, the average median home price in Colorado Springs is about $250,000. And with the position I just took, I don’t pay anything for my medical,” Rose said.

Nationally, the interest in an education major has dropped, Rosenlee said.

The state is hoping to draw teachers back into its classrooms with a new 5-year strategic plan to improve teacher recruitment and retention.

The plans’ six objectives include: build capacity locally, increase teacher satisfaction, provide meaningful incentives for recruitment and retention, effectively market the teaching profession and improve the special-education teaching experience.

Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto told KHON-TV that the special education teacher shortage needs to be addressed first.

One idea that was suggested at the Thursday meeting involves paying special education teachers for the extra hours they put in after school, handling individual education plans. “A one-size approach to this is not going to get us where we need to go,” Kishimoto said. “We need some bold action. We have to as a community be willing to try something different.”