DOE refutes study on teacher sick days

DOE refutes study on teacher sick days

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Alayna Maldonado teaches third graders at Kaleiopuu Elementary School. She said calling in sick is always a worst-case scenario.

"I have to be really sick, or my daughter has to be sick for me not to come to school," she said.

In February, a U.S. Department of Education study ranked Hawaii second worst in the nation for teacher sick days. It said on average, isle teachers miss 17 days during the school year.

"The original study inferred that there was abuse in the way of sick leave utilization by our teachers," said Diana Niles-Hansen, DOE senior director of human resources.

On Tuesday, she told the Board of Education's Human Resource Committee she crunched the department's own numbers, and Hawaii's teachers average far fewer sick days that what the national study showed -- 7 not 17.

"So it looked like there was no pattern of abuse, at least not that the data indicated. So much different than what was reported," she said.

She said the national numbers included teacher personal days and professional development days, and that skewed the findings.

Hawaii public school teachers get 18 sick days a year, that includes time for illness, family leave, and personal and professional leave.

"That report that was presented today showed that about 1,700 teachers don't take any sick leave. And I think that story needs to be told," BOE committee chairman Jim Williams said.

The national study outlined an effort to drive down teacher sick days across the nation to fewer than ten a year.

"For certain what the data indicates that utilization on average for all teachers fell under the ten, and for most teachers fell well under the ten," Niles-Hansen said.

Maldonado said the new numbers reinforce her belief that Hawaii's teachers are committed to the classroom.

"That is our number one priority. This is where we're needed, first and foremost, and where we try to be every day," she said.

Williams said subtracting the number of days of sick leave teachers take for maternity leave could drop the seven-day average even more.

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