Hawai‘i DOE introduces proposal to tackle teacher shortage through pay incentives


The Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE) announced a new initiative to tackle Hawai‘i’s teacher shortage by providing incentives for educators teaching in critical areas.

The Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE) announced a new initiative to tackle Hawai‘i’s teacher shortage by providing incentives for educators teaching in critical areas. The first phase of this effort is a proposal to implement a pay differential to increase compensation for classroom teachers in areas that have faced the most severe shortages – special education, Hawaiian Language Immersion programs, and hard-to-staff geographic locations.

Gov. David Ige offered his support for the proposal at a press conference today, stating, “This is just the first step of many that will be taken by the Board and Department, which I plan to support. Phase I addresses critical areas where students need the most attention and where we have seen the most prolonged periods of vacancies.”

HIDOE is seeking approval from the Hawai‘i State Board of Education (BOE) for this proposal at a meeting scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 5. The recommended effective date for the implementation of the pay differential is Jan. 7, 2020.

“We must take positive action now to address the growing gap of qualified educators who provide instruction to our students with the highest needs,” said Catherine Payne, BOE Chairwoman. “This is the first of several steps we need to take to support our talented educators. It will take strong policy direction from the Board to shift the Department's trajectory and we appreciate Governor Ige's support as we go forward with these efforts.” 

Under the proposal, classroom teachers in Phase I would receive the following annual differential in addition to their current salary:

​Category (10-month, classroom teachers)

Pay Differential

​Special Education


​Hard-to-Staff (Tier 1)


​Hard-to-Staff (Tier 2)


​Hard-to-Staff (Tier 3)


​Hard-to-Staff (Tier 4)


​Hawaiian Language Immersion


For example, a beginning 10-month special education classroom teacher with a bachelor's degree who has completed a state approved teacher education program (SATEP), holds a license from the Hawai‘i Teacher Standards Board, and who currently earns $49,100, would now be eligible to receive an annual $10,000 differential. Additionally, a qualified Hawaiian immersion teacher with five or six years experience and a master’s degree working at a hard-to-staff school on Moloka‘i currently earning $54,619, would be eligible to receive an annual $16,000 differential (Hard-to-staff Tier 4 and Hawaiian Immersion).

The Department estimates the special education pay differential would cost $8.45 million in fiscal year (FY) 2020, which ends June 30, based on 1,691 special education teachers who are currently eligible. The hard-to-staff differential is estimated to cost an additional $6 million in FY 2020, based on 2,109 teachers in all tiers of hard-to-staff areas. The Hawaiian immersion differential is expected to cost approximately $216,000 in FY 2020, based on 54 teachers who are currently eligible.

Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto said this initiative is critical in addressing the achievement gap, adding, “There is no single solution to the teacher staffing challenges we’re seeing nationwide. The difficulties in recruiting qualified teachers for special education, Hawaiian Language Immersion programs and hard-to-staff areas have created an equity issue for our most vulnerable students. We have listened to the feedback of our educators and it’s time for bold action to unleash the promise and power of public education on behalf of our haumana.”

Work is underway on Phase II of this strategic initiative. The Department anticipates introducing a subsequent proposal to the Board in January, which will coincide with the release of the results of the teacher salary study the Department commissioned earlier this year.

Corey Rosenlee, president for the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association, said he supports the proposal and expressed his commitment to continuing to partner with the Department: “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."

For more information, click here to view the BOE’s Dec. 5 meeting agenda.


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