- The Hawaii Department of Education has released a new strategic plan for recruiting and retaining more teachers after recent reports showing that its five-year retention rate is only 51% and that there still more than 500 vacancies for the current school year, Hawaii News Now reports.
- The main reason for the low retention rate is that 38% of the teachers who leave the schools are leaving Hawaii altogether; the second biggest factor is retirement.
- The state is working to extend recruiting efforts to the mainland and overseas, is trying to convince more university students to pursue education and is expanding pathways to licensure in order to address the issue. The state is also scrambling for new sources of funding to boost teacher salaries, which are the lowest in the nation when adjusted for cost of living in the state.
Hawaii has much to offer in terms of climate, beauty, history and cultural significance. However, it is a challenging place to teach for a number of reasons. Its high cost of living, for example, means that its teachers are the lowest paid in the nation. Though the state is ranked as first in the nation in teacher union strength, beginning teachers make only $24,409 a year when adjusted for the cost of living, according to a recent Wallet Hub report. Lack of administrator support for teachers is another reason why educators say they are dissatisfied.
The state faces several challenges when it comes to supporting education. Despite the fact that Hawaii is comprised of several diverse islands and has a population of 1.4 million with 185,000 students in 256 schools, it has only one statewide school district that is not supported by property taxes. A recent ballot measure designed to increase property rates on expensive properties didn't count because it was struck down by the state supreme court.
Another factor is the sense of isolation and cultural barriers that many teachers from the mainland experience. Most students in the district are from Hawaii and retain a strong sense of cultural independence that is not always welcoming to outsiders. Currently, only about one-third of the state's teachers come from home-grown programs, leaving leaders to search for teachers outside the state’s isolated geographic boundaries. The state recently launched a Teaching and Learning Academy program to recruit more high school students into teaching careers and initiated a New Teacher Center in 2011 to provide more support to beginning teachers, but it is too early to tell if these efforts will help in the long run.