Legislative session brings some good news for educators

Teachers will no longer front HTSB fees; Lawmakers approve huge schools construction budget increase

Throughout the 2019 legislative session, HSTA’s Lobbying Team passionately advocated for bills that aligned with the Government Relations Committee priorities as defined by our members and approved by our Board of Directors. We are pleased that some of our priority bills passed both the House and Senate and now await Gov. David Ige’s signature.

New teachers will no longer front HTSB fees

For example, lawmakers passed HB 1070, which will allow general fund monies to fund the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board (HTSB) instead of using licensing fees paid by teachers. According to HTSB, this change means tenured and probationary teachers will no longer have to pay their own licensure fees. Stay tuned for details from HTSB and HIDOE if the governor signs this bill into law. Since this is currently a negotiated benefit, HSTA will need to be involved in the implementation of this law.

Massive boost in school construction, Title IX equity projects

The HSTA has constantly advocated for improvements to school facilities and lawmakers have responded with more than a 26 percent increase in capital improvement projects over the next two years, compared to this biennium. In fiscal years 2020 and 2021, the DOE will receive nearly $160 million more or $559 million for repairs and maintenance, health and safety projects as well as new classrooms and facilities. Among the highlights: nearly $40 million in Title IX equity projects, including adding or improving girls’ locker rooms at 10 high schools.

More tuition stipends for aspiring teachers; Preschool expansion

The Senate negotiated to add $600,000 to HB 1070 for initiatives such as the Grow Our Own Teachers program, which provides stipends to cover the cost of tuition and fees for emergency hires, substitute teachers, or educational assistants seeking teacher certification and licensure. 

Funding appropriations were also inserted into SB 78 to expand public preschool by adding 10 new classrooms and by funding 18 existing charter school classrooms previously funded through a federal grant. SB 78 also includes a $1.8 million appropriation for applied behavior analysis services for students with special needs and a $1.5 million appropriation for early college programs for high school students.

New youth suicide intervention program, school protocols and training

Also awaiting the governor’s signature are two bills to start a youth suicide intervention and prevention program. SB 383 will establish a model risk referral protocol for schools and a training program based on the Department of Health’s existing suicide awareness and prevention curriculum while HB 330 will appropriate $150,000 to the Department of Health to support this initiative. 

School funding proposal, teacher housing voucher programs didn't survive

The session was much less fruitful than we had hoped, partly because the state needed to fund necessary disaster relief for Kauai and Hawaii, plus implementation of a new zero-based budgeting system at the legislature.

While several priority bills such as SB1474 to increase funding for public education, SB 392 to provide special education teachers funding for supplies, and SB 12, SB114, and SB 387 to provide teacher housing solutions passed successfully through the Senate, those proposals failed to receive a final hearing in their House committees. 

Other priority bills looked promising after passing through both chambers of the legislature. However, they did not pass conference committees because they were either not scheduled for a hearing or because the committee, composed of both House and Senate members, could not agree on the bills’ final versions.  HB 615 would have put a non-voting teacher on the Board of Education, but the measure was never scheduled for a conference committee hearing. Conversely, SB 983 to expand National Board Certification incentives was heard in conference committee, but lawmakers could not reach agreement on the bill’s final language, so it died.  

Although the 2019 legislative session is over, any bill introduced this session is technically still alive next session. Thus we will continue to advocate for these proposals as well as any new bills that align with HSTA’s government relations priorities next year. See below for a breakdown of priority bills that either passed or made it through at least one chamber of the legislature in 2019:

Priority bills passed and awaiting the governor's signature:

HB 1070 - HTSB funding from general funds 

SB 1195 - Bargaining Unit 5 cost items appropriations

SB 1221 - Begins HTSB reporting requirements on emergency hires

SB 383 - Youth suicide prevention awareness and training for schools

HB 330 - Youth suicide prevention training $150,000 appropriation

HB 250 - Continues and expands school-based health services

SB 78 -  Funds 10 new preschool classrooms and 18 existing charter school preschool classrooms 

Priority bills that died this session (but will be alive next legislative session in 2020):

SB 1474 - Increases GET by 0.5 percent for public education funding

SB 392 - Instructional resources/supplies of $1,690/year for SPED teachers

HB 1530 - Funding appropriation for mentor teacher incentives

SB 114 and SB 12 - Creates housing voucher program of $500 a month for teachers at hard-to-fill schools

SB 387 - Enables HHFDC to develop/manage affordable teacher rental housing 

SB 1515 - Expands after school programs

SB 983 - Expands National Board Certification incentives

HB 615 - Appoints non-voting teacher member on the BOE 

SB 762 - Creates agriculture coordinator position to support public school agriculture education  

Author: Keoki Kerr