Educators provide testimony in strong support of restoring PD

The Senate Ways and Means Committee Monday approved Senate Bill 3209 SD1 that would restore educators’ 21 hours of job-embedded professional development, which was removed from the contract last year due to budget cuts, resulting in a 1.5% pay reduction for teachers.

Monday’s approval comes after the Senate and House education committees passed bills to restore on-the-job professional development for educators with no objections last month.

SB 3209 D1 would appropriate around $16 million to fund the restoration of professional development for educators and if signed into law, would take effect on July 1, the beginning of the state’s next fiscal year.

In support of the bill, HSTA President Osa Tui, Jr. said, “One way we are able to help retain our teachers is for the DOE to offer professional development, and what we hope the HIDOE considers, if given this money, is to actually negotiate with HSTA and bring back the 21 hours for professional development that were not included in this last contract.”

“As we all know, teachers not only want the professional development, they need the time to complete it, and they should also be compensated for their valuable time as well,” Tui noted.

The Hawaii State Department of Education testified in support of the measure, and interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said, “Building staff capacity through professional development and coaching is critical in the Department’s efforts to recover from the adverse effects on student achievement due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Any additional funding that can be provided will help accelerate this recovery.”

Educators rally in strong support of paid professional development

Restoring paid professional development would provide teachers the chance to hone their skillset and achieve higher pay while being compensated for conducting work activities outside of regular working hours.

Victoria Zupancic, a teacher at Lahainaluna High on Maui, testified in support of the measure and said, “We all work past our contractual hours. Any compensation for this time is appreciated, and every bit helps keep teachers in our classrooms.”

John Fitzpatrick teaches at Maui Waena Intermediate and told senators in his written testimony that “when Governor Ige cut this crucial investment in our teachers it was a slap in the face during the pandemic. I lost roughly $900 that goes to paying rent, buying food, and filling my car with gas.”

In his written testimony, Ilima Intermediate teacher Pana Kia referred to the strain teachers feel putting in hours outside of the classroom.

“Having these 21 embedded hours is vital for teachers to be able to work together outside of the student hours. Feeling the effects of not having them this year has caused a strain on operations,” he said.

“We have to figure out where to fit in the work that extends past the students’ time. This also helps those of us teachers who are focusing on our classrooms of life responsibilities and not able to take classes to move up the pay scale, this helps with that as well,” Kia said.

Teachers spoke to how the return of job-embedded professional development would help them after years of taking professional development courses.

Vickie Kam, an Ilima Intermediate teacher, said, “I have worked at several schools, supported thousands of students and have continued to collect professional development credits yearly for many, many, MANY professional development courses. This bill would begin to offset some of the hours I have spent honing my craft by paying me for my work at 21 hours a year… paltry in comparison to the time actually devoted to education.”

Special education instruction could benefit from return of PD

Special education educators could especially benefit from the return of job-embedded professional development as their duties include abiding by lengthy state and federal mandates, leaving little time for working on improving their instructional models.

The special education department educators at McKinley High submitted strong written testimony in support of SB 3209 D1.

“Our special education students are diverse in needs and it takes the whole department to work collaboratively to address each student’s needs. Most of the time, we as care coordinators do not teach the student in our caseload and need the time to discuss their needs with our peers in special education and in the regular education programs,” they wrote.

“This legislation will assist our teachers by alleviating the stress that teachers, special education as well as the regular education, face with the responsibilities of working with autistic, special motivation, low performing as well as those who can become volatile at a drop of a button.”

After Monday’s approval, the bill will next be heard by the full Senate floor before passing over to the House to be heard. The bills are subject to amendment and change and the final outcome will not be clear unless and until lawmakers pass the bill in some form and it becomes law with or without the governor’s signature.

Should the funding be restored, the HSTA will negotiate the terms of the 21 hours of PD with the employer.