Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Millions worth of differentials make up first phase of plan to end teacher shortage crisis

Second phase will address teacher salary compression

Click here to watch the full news conference on YouTube.

The Board of Education on Thursday approved annual shortage differentials of up to $10,000 for special education, hard-to-staff, and Hawaiian language immersion educators. On Tuesday, the governor, schools superintendent and Board of Education chair joined the Hawaii State Teachers Association in announcing the first phase of an attack on the teacher shortage crisis. As a result of HSTA's advocacy, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto also committed to a second phase addressing teacher salary compression.

The shortage differentials for DOE teachers will take effect Jan. 7. They would be worth about $14.7 million in pay to HSTA members in the spring semester, as well as about $30.4 million of increases next school year (SY 2020-2021). The DOE has laid out the rationale, cost and other key information about the shortage differential pay for DOE teachers in a memo to the BOE.

Read the HSTA's FAQs about the shortage differentials.

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said, “Today is the first step of a multi-phased plan to ensure that all our keiki, regardless of where they live, what their special needs are or their ethnicity, are taught by highly qualified teachers."

"The HSTA believes the teacher shortage extends throughout the profession and is not limited to specific areas or teaching lines, which is why all educators' compensation should be increased," Rosenlee continued. "It is important to recognize certain critical positions since DOE leaders have committed to examining whether all qualified and licensed teachers should receive additional compensation to help with recruitment and retention."

Gov. David Ige told reporters, “This is the first phase of a multi-phase (effort). We are looking at what is required to end the teacher shortage here in the islands. And we felt that this is the first step. We believe that this represents the highest priority areas that we should be working hard to fill first. Obviously there will be subsequent action that will be required to comprehensively address the teacher shortage.” 

On Thursday, Dec. 5, at 5:30 p.m., HSTA leaders will be on Facebook Live to answer your questions. Like our page to be notified when we go live.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please fill out this online form.

A $10K annual SpEd shortage differential

Hawaii, like many states across the country, has experienced a shortage of qualified special education teachers for the past decade. Statewide, nearly 500 special education teaching positions are not filled by licensed special education teachers. That means the state has assigned an increasing number of non-SATEP teachers to children with special needs.

The Department of Education is asking the BOE to approve an annual shortage differential of $10,000 for each qualified and licensed special education classroom teacher. As of Nov. 30, the DOE reported there are about 1,691 SpEd classroom teachers. Non-classroom teachers will not qualify for the SpEd bonuses. Read more about the SpEd shortage differential proposal on pages three to five of the DOE memo.

If the BOE approves the shortage differential Thursday, Hawaii would have the highest SpEd differential in the country. The National Council on Teacher Quality reports at least 35 of the major school districts across the country already offer SpEd teachers a financial bonus of some kind. For instance, New York City provides a $5,000 SpEd bonus, with another $400 a month in housing assistance for SpEd teachers. Hawaii does not currently offer SpEd teachers any kind of differential or extra pay.

DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto told Tuesday's news conference, “We have a shortage in our state and we must take bold action to recognize Hawaii’s exceptional public education system. Inaction is not an option. This is an equity issue.”

Some Hawaii regular ed teachers have expressed frustration with the idea of a bonus for SpEd teachers, saying that SpEd teachers don't work harder than other teachers.

Rosenlee, president of the HSTA, said, “This is not about suggesting that one teacher works harder than another teacher. This is saying that our students who have special needs are being denied requirements under law that they should be given, and this is having devastating long-term consequences. We need to take action immediately in order to ensure that our special needs students are given the education that is required under law.”

Rosenlee warns of another Felix case, a class-action lawsuit filed against the state in the 1990s for failing to provide adequate educational and mental health services to special needs children. It resulted in the Felix Consent Decree with the federal government, which forced the state to pay more than $1.2 billion to pay private service providers and create an array of services for children who would have been better served by hiring more qualified teachers and aides in the classroom.

Related Story: Read more about the plight of Hawaii SpEd teachers

Higher hard-to-staff shortage bonuses at more schools, up to $8K a year

In 2007, the HSTA negotiated hard-to-staff differentials of $3,000 for qualified and licensed teachers in hard-to-staff locations. As a result of consultations with HSTA, the DOE is asking the BOE to increase the schools offering hard-to-staff bonuses as well as raising the amounts on a tiered scale, depending on key criteria, up to $8,000 a year. Roughly 2,109 HSTA members would be eligible for these bonuses. The four criteria levels are:

  1. Complexes required under the current contract.
  2. Complexes whose rate of SATEP teachers has been under the state SATEP average for the last three years.
  3. Geographically isolated complexes more than 25 miles from an urban center.
  4. Complexes whose combined vacancy and emergency hires were higher than 10 percent in SY 2016-2017 and SY 2017-2018,

Tier 1: Keaau and Pahoa Complexes, $3,000. Teachers in Tier 1 complexes where hard-to-staff bonuses are required under the current contract but meet no other criteria will continue receiving the existing $3,000 shortage differential. 

Tier 2: Kealakehe, Kohala, Konawaena, and Lahainaluna Complexes, $5,000. Teachers in Tier 2 complexes that meet two of the above criteria levels will receive a $5,000 shortage differential.

Tier 3: Honokaa and Kau Complexes, $7,500. Teachers in Tier 3 complexes that meet three of the above criteria levels will receive a $7,500 shortage differential.

Tier 4: Hana, Lanai, Molokai, Nanakuli and Waianae Complexes, $8,000. Teachers in Tier 4 complexes that meet four of the above criteria levels will receive an $8,000 shortage differential, should the BOE approve the proposal at its special meeting on Thursday, Dec. 5. The $8,000 amount is the highest hard-to-staff differential in the country. In addition, teachers at Olomana School and the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind will be eligible for the $8,000 differential because of chronic shortages.

Read more about the hard-to-staff shortage differentials on pages five to eight of the DOE proposal.

Current contract

Hana Complex
Keaau Complex
Lanai Complex
Molokai Complex
Kau Complex
Nanakuli Complex
Pahoa Complex
Waianae Complex

Proposed changes

$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
Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind*
Lanai Complex
Molokai Complex
Nanakuli Complex
Olomana School*
Waianae Complex

*Special consideration schools

The DOE said it is "seeking new and innovative ways to stabilize our teaching workforces in the most at-risk communities. The schools affected by these expanded criteria have historically been subjected to chronic shortages of qualified and licensed teachers for many years, if not decades." 

The situation may be exacerbated, the DOE said, in certain schools or geographical locations that are rural and/or remote as the cost of living is even greater, and housing options are scarce, resulting in long commute times and extra fuel expenses.

Related Story: Read more about the challenges facing educators at Hawaii hard-to-staff schools here

Hawaiian language immersion $8k shortage differential  

The Department of Education says only 34 percent of its Hawaiian language immersion teaching positions, 54, are filled with qualified and licensed Hawaiian language immersion teachers. They require fluency in the Hawaiian language as well as a license from the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board.

Read more about the Hawaii language immersion shortage differential proposal on pages eight through 10 of the DOE memo.

In August of this year, the Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution requires that Hawaii make "reasonable efforts" to provide students access to Hawaiian language immersion education. There are currently 18 DOE-operated Hawaiian language immersion programs in the state.

To attract qualified and licensed teachers to the Hawaiian immersion classroom, the DOE is asking the BOE to provide an annual shortage differential of $8,000 per licensed classroom educators deemed fluent in the Hawaiian language.

Related Story: Read more about the difficulties that Hawaiian language immersion teachers face

DOE plans to address teacher salary compression

More than 6,300 HSTA members have been robbed of pay increases based on years of service during economic hard times and the state needs to implement a salary schedule reflecting educators' years of service.

As a result of HSTA's long-term advocacy, Kishimoto also committed to addressing "Equity and compression in teacher salaries via a forthcoming pilot project," stating that this "additional action is necessary to retain licensed, tenured teachers who are essential to closing the student achievement gap." 

Kishimoto said she plans to return to the BOE early next year to provide additional information about a "pilot project." She said the DOE plans to release a teacher salary study in January, which will provide the department with data to further support work to end the teacher shortage.

At Tuesday's news conference, Kishimoto told reporters, “We’ve had a history where teacher pay has been frozen and we have more experienced teachers that might get paid today similarly to less experienced teachers. So we are both rolling out a comprehensive approach to recruitment and retention that will have multiple factors and then phase two will be the slice of work that we’re going to be pulling out of that that we think is most critical to happen beginning this next school year.”

Rosenlee says the state continually has to hire more than 1,000 educators every year because there's a teacher shortage crisis, and fixing the step salary increases would help to ease that crisis. According to HSTA's research, more than 6,300 of its members should be paid anywhere from $900 to $17,000 more a year to solve those compression problems.

Rosenlee told reporters the HSTA is very aware the shortage differentials announced Tuesday are "not going to solve all of our problems. That we still must find a way to make sure that we give our teachers fair compensation and a professional wage.”

Teachers in Hawaii have the lowest salaries when adjusted for our high cost of living.

“Hopefully after the board votes on Thursday to support this," Rosenlee said, "We will actually lead the nation in three areas. We will have the highest national board certification bonus in the entire country ($10,000 a year at hard-to-staff schools), we will have the highest special education differential in the entire country ($10,000) and we will have the highest hard-to-staff differential in the entire country ($8,000).”

Related Story: Read more about how the salary compression issue affects HSTA members

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

HSTA's campaign to end the teacher shortage crisis

These proposals are a positive step forward in part of the HSTA's five-year plan to end the statewide teacher shortage crisis. The HSTA's wide-ranging plans include:

  • Recruiting community supporters to fund college tuition for students who commit to teaching in Hawaii's public schools for three to five years.
  • Asking lawmakers to expand the "Grow Our Own Teachers" initiative which pays for tuition for educational assistants and others interested in studying to become teachers.
  • Working with developers and government to create affordable rentals for teachers and dedicated teacher housing.
  • Working with financial companies to create loan products that offer zero percent down and no mortgage insurance to help educators buy homes in the islands.
  • Expanding HSTA's professional development courses and offering more of them for free starting this summer.

More details about these and other efforts will be announced in the coming months.

Read the DOE's news release about Tuesday's developments.

From left: DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, Gov. David Ige, Board of Education Chair Catherine Payne, HSTA President Corey Rosenlee.

Author: Keoki Kerr