Frequently asked questions about teacher shortage crisis differentials

These FAQs will be updated as new information becomes available

The Hawaii State Teachers Association has been working hard to get answers to the many questions teachers have asked regarding the Hawaii State Department of Education's recently announced shortage differentials in the areas of special education, Hawaiian language immersion, and hard-to-staff.

On Dec. 20, the DOE issued this memo regarding the implementation of the shortage differentials.

Members are encouraged to review the memo carefully, as well as the DOE's own frequently asked questions document. Please note this is stored on the DOE's intranet and you will be prompted to enter your credentials.

Our FAQs were originally posted on Dec. 6.

  • Updates made on Dec. 20 are blue.
  • Updates made on Jan. 23 are red.
  • Updates made on March 6 are purple.

In addition, the DOE is working on Phase II of the strategic initiative to address the teacher shortage crisis. A subsequent proposal is expected to be introduced in January, which will coincide with the release of the teacher salary study that the department commissioned earlier this year.

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General questions

1Q: Did HSTA agree to the DOE implementing the shortage differentials?

1A: The HSTA believes the teacher shortage extends throughout the profession and is not only limited to specific areas or teaching lines and all educators' compensation should be increased.  HSTA has agreed to the implementation of shortage differentials for certain critical positions as the superintendent, governor and BOE have committed to address equity and compression in teacher salaries and plan to announce additional actions in early 2020 to ensure we retain licensed teachers.

2Q: Where is the money coming from for this increase?

2A:  The governor has committed to fund the shortage differentials by including them in his supplemental budget. This will require legislative approval in the 2020 legislative session. The request includes funding to cover both the DOE shortage differentials as well as funding to allow public charter schools to implement shortage differentials. For DOE schools, the superintendent has committed to put forward the money in advance of the legislative approval.

3Q: Will the shortage differentials be retroactive?  

3A: No.

4Q: When will these differentials start? Will they continue into school year 2020–21?

4A: The DOE intends to begin to pay the differentials starting in spring semester 2020. The department anticipates that teachers who qualify will see the differential in their Jan. 17, 2020 paychecks. Note for half-time teachers: shortage differentials will be adjusted to half of the full differential. Per the DOE, all Form 5s have been distributed to the schools, and were mailed the week of Jan. 13, 2020. The funding bill for shortage differentials is currently moving through the Legislature. It is important that teachers submit testimony to ensure funding for the shortage differentials going forward. Please refer to this post for instructions on how to submit your support for funding. We understand that the DOE will continue the shortage differentials into next year. If we hear differently, we will notify teachers.

5Q: Will I get the full differential in school year 2019–20?

5A: The differential will be prorated as it starts midway through school year 2019-2020.  The full differential will be paid beginning in school year 2020-2021.

The chart below shows what teachers should expect to see in their paychecks.

Shortage differential type Full school year amount
(SY 2020–2021)
Amount paid in SY 2019–2020
(half of full amount)
Special Education $10,000 $5,000
Hawaiian Immersion $8,000 $4,000
Hard-to-staff* Full school year amount
(SY 2020–2021)
Amount paid in 2nd semester
SY 2019–2020
Tier 1 $3,000 $1,500
Tier 2 $5,000 $2,500
Tier 3 $7,500 $3,750
Tier 4 $8,000 $4,000

*HSTA reports, per the DOE,  that DOE schools currently receiving the $3,000 hard-to-staff recruitment/retention incentive will receive $1,500 for the first semester SY 2019-2020 paid earlier in spring of 2020 (instead of the usual July 20 payment). When the DOE notifies HSTA of the specific pay period for the first-semester payment of $1,500, we will update these FAQs. The remainder, which covers the second semester, will be divided among the remaining paychecks for SY 2019-20.

6Q: To be eligible, are we required to have an “effective” performance rating and/or do I have to be tenured?

6A: Per the DOE, shortage differentials are not connected to Educator Effectiveness System (EES) ratings. Tenure status does not play a role in eligibility. 

7Q: Will I be eligible for multiple differentials if I qualify in multiple categories? (e.g. SpEd teacher working at a hard-to-staff school)

7A: Yes, you can qualify for more than one shortage differential.

8Q: What is the difference between a shortage differential and a bonus?

8A: Bonuses are usually one-time payments whereas shortage differentials are paid in installments. Shortage differentials are also allowed to be utilized towards retirement calculations (e.g. “high-three”). Click here for more information.

9Q: Will there be any special transfer postings related to the shortage differentials?

9A: HSTA has confirmed with the DOE, there are no plans for a special posting period related to shortage differentials. The regular posting cycle (for school year 2020-201 positions) will start in spring 2020 (late February).

10Q: Will SpEd, hard-to-staff, and Hawaiian language immersion positions held by emergency hires be vacated?

10A: Emergency hires do not have any right to a position from year to year; they are not “held in place.” Generally, that means the position would be posted in the transfer period, assuming the school still needs the position next school year.

11Q: Do charter school teachers qualify for the shortage differentials?

11A: HSTA believes that charter teachers should qualify for the shortage differentials. However, the shortage differentials are being initiated and implemented by the DOE. Charter school teachers are not employed by the DOE; they are employed by their specific charter school.   Each charter school governing board would have to make a similar decision to the BOE to implement shortage differentials for their teachers; however, we can't force a charter school to implement similar differentials, as these are employer-driven initiatives.

The HSTA is asking about the possibility of securing additional funding to allow charter schools to implement similar adjustments. In addition, at the Dec. 5 BOE meeting, the superintendent committed to help secure the funding for charter teachers.

At HSTA’s request, to ensure equity of funding for public charter schools, the governor has placed funding for shortage differentials for public charter schools into his 2021 Executive Supplemental Budget ($1,448,250 FY20 and $1,933,500 FY 21). The funding still needs legislative approval before being released to charter schools. Implementation of shortage differentials (as described above) will have to wait until the funds are released unless schools are willing to pay the money prior to receiving.

Specific to special education teachers employed by a public charter school and assigned to positions funded through the Department of Education Special Education funds: The HSTA advocated and the DOE agreed that eligible teachers will receive the special education $10,000 shortage differential and any hard-to-staff differential via their normal DOE payroll. Note: This is in line with the current practice of the DOE paying for the current hard-to-staff recruitment and retention incentive pay. See the DOE Dec. 20, 2019 memo for more information.

Special education shortage differential

12Q: What qualifications do I have to meet to receive the shortage differential for SpEd?

12A: In order to qualify, a teacher must be assigned a school-level special education teacher position and be licensed (provisional, standard, or advanced) by the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board (HTSB) in special education. Regular education, non-classroom, and district resource teacher positions do not generally qualify, even if the teacher is certified in special education.

If a teacher is working toward licensure in special education, assuming they meet all other requirements, they will qualify for the differential upon obtaining the appropriate subject area(s)/teaching field(s) on their license issued by HTSB. The differential will begin based on the effective date of license or added area/field.  

In cases where an individual is assigned to provide direct instruction and serves students in a special education setting, but is not in a position titled “Special Education Teacher” and may not be at the school level, there is an exception request process. A principal or educational specialist supervising the teacher will need to submit an exception request for review to have the teacher qualify for the shortage differential. The exception request form can be found here. Please note access to this form is restricted to DOE employees using Google login credentials. Some teachers have inquired about how fast they can expect a response to the exceptions submission. The DOE reports that more than 100 requests have been submitted within the first two weeks of the spring semester. They are reviewing them as quickly as possible. We expect that teachers should receive a response within a few weeks. If they qualify, any pay adjustments for missed checks will be made as appropriate.

Public charter school teachers currently assigned positions in special education that are funded by the DOE should see Question 11 above.

13Q: As a dual-certified SpEd teacher currently in a general education position, will I have “special status” for a SpEd vacancy?

13A: There is no specific “special status” for SpEd teachers. Teachers applying for vacancies during the transfer period must be “qualified” for the posted position. This means that any position posted for SpEd would require a licensed SpEd applicant.

Hawaiian language immersion shortage differential

14Q: What qualifications do I have to meet to receive the shortage differential for Hawaiian language immersion?

14A: In order to qualify, a teacher must be assigned a classroom teacher position in a DOE kaiapuni school program (Hawaiian language immersion). The teacher must be licensed (provisional, standard, or advanced) by the HTSB in the subject field of either Hawaiian language immersion or Kaiaolelo-Kaiapuni Hawaii, or be licensed in any other subject area/teaching field and deemed fluent in Hawaiian. Special permits do not qualify. A list of kaiapuni schools can be found here.

If an individual is in a Hawaiian language immersion program teaching line, but the position is not identified as such, the principal will need to submit an exception request in order for the teacher to qualify for the differential. See the DOE Dec. 20, 2019 memo for more information.

HSTA received the following additional information from the DOE related to teachers meeting the Hawaiian language fluency requirements: As of Jan. 7, 2020, in order to meet the fluency requirement for the differential, individuals without a Hawaiian Immersion or Kaiaʻōlelo-Kaiapuni Hawaiʻi license will need to provide evidence of Hawaiian language fluency for one of the following options:

  1. Passing a Hawaiian language oral proficiency exam at his or her own expense (e.g. KHAW/HAW 490),
  2. Providing a diploma or official transcript that s/he is a graduate of a Kaiapuni high school, or 
  3. Completing 30 semester credit hours* of non-introductory Hawaiian language courses (beyond 202) including: 
  • 12 semester credit hours* in continuing Hawaiian Language courses (301, 302, 401, and 402); and   
  • Minimum of six (6) semester credit hours from Hawaiian language elective courses at the 300–400 level in various content areas; and
  • The remaining 12 semester credit hours may include non-introductory Hawaiian knowledge courses to enhance Hawaiian language worldview (to be determined on a case-by-case basis).

A transcript analysis will be completed for the 30 acceptable semester credit hours submitted.

Those with questions regarding being deemed fluent in the Hawaiian language are asked to contact Anela Iwane, Educational Specialist, DOE Office of Hawaiian Education, at (808) 784-6082 or via e-mail at Anela.Iwane@k12.hi.us.

*or credit by examination.

Hard-to-staff shortage differential

15Q: What qualifications do I have to meet to receive the shortage differential for hard-to-staff?

15A: In order to qualify, a teacher must work in a school-level position at a school identified as hard-to-staff regardless of whether the position is a classroom or certificated support personnel position. The teacher must also be licensed (provisional, standard, or advanced) by HTSB.

Public charter school teachers who are employed by the charter school but assigned to positions funded through DOE-allocated special education funds are eligible for this differential, as is the current practice. The teacher must be in a special education teacher, special education teacher/pre-school or general education/article VI titled position. The department will process and pay for the shortage differential for eligible teachers in these types of department-funded positions through the regular DOE payroll process.

16Q: I already receive the hard-to-staff recruitment and retention incentive $3,000 differential. How will I be affected?

16A: You will continue to receive the differential, however, your school may fall within a category that allows for a larger amount. Please see Question 5 above for more information on how increases will be implemented for current recipients.

17Q: Do district resource teachers qualify for the hard-to-staff shortage differential?

17A: No. The shortage differential is payable only to school-level teachers.

18Q: What schools qualify for the hard-to-staff shortage differentials?

18A: Schools qualify based on the following criteria and tiers.

Criteria Tiers
  1. Complexes required under the current contract
  2. Complexes whose rate of teachers with a SATEP has been under the state SATEP average for the last three years
  3. Geographically isolated complexes
  4. Complexes whose combined vacancy and emergency hires were higher than 10% in SY 2016-2017 and 2017-2018
  1. $3,000. Complexes required under the current contract
  2. $5,000. Complexes who meet two of the criteria levels
  3. $7,500. Complexes who meet three of the criteria levels
  4. $8,000. Complexes who meet four of the criteria levels, and Olomana School and Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind

The following list reflects complexes and differential amounts that qualify.

$3,000 (Existing) $5,000 (2 criteria)
Keaau Complex
Pahoa Complex
Kealakehe Complex
Kohala Complex
Konawaena Complex
Lahainaluna Complex
$7,500 (3 criteria) $8,000 (4 criteria)
Honokaa Complex
Kau Complex
Hana Complex
Lanai Complex
Molokai Complex
Nanakuli Complex
Waianae Complex
Olomana School*
Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind*

*Special consideration schools

For a list of schools in each complex, go to the DOE website.

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19Q: Do teachers who hold National Board Certification qualify for the additional $5,000 per state law HRS §302A-706 because my school is now considered “hard to staff”?

19A: Yes, if your school is in a hard-to-staff area as designated by the Dec. 20 DOE memo, the DOE will recognize those schools as “hard to fill” under the state law for purposes of qualification for the additional $5,000 bonus.  Because the new designation as hard-to-staff occurred mid-year, qualifying teachers will initially only receive half ($2,500) for this year. 

Note: These answers are subject to change.

Author: Keoki Kerr

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