PEARL CITY, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Leeward Community College Saturday, dozens of teachers and administrators spent time in workshops addressing Hawaii's teaching shortage crisis.
"We don't have enough teachers and there are hundreds of positions unfilled," said Corey Rosenlee, president of Hawaii State Teachers Association.
Currently, there are more than 800 emergency hires and teacher vacancies in Hawaii. Rosenlee says fulfilling positions has been an issue for nearly a century, and it's only getting worse.
"The reality is Hawaii is completely underfunded in schools," Rosenlee said. "We have the worst funded school system in the U.S. and we have the worst paid teachers in the U.S."
All that combined leads to high teacher turnover rates.
"We need to do a better job of home growing local teachers so we don't have to constantly recruit from the mainland for folks that are great, but don't necessarily stay for as long as we'd want them to stay," said George Carroll from University of Phoenix Hawaii Campus.
Leeward teacher Bobbie Martel knows making ends meet on a teacher's salary can be challenging, but wants potential candidates to acknowledge it's more than just about money when it comes to our children's future.
"I know all of us can think back to that effective teacher that influenced us and the career choices we have made and will continue to make," Martel said.
Rosenlee, on the other hand, believes it really is all about money and serious action by the government needs to be taken immediately.
"Kids are not going to go into education and become teachers if they know they can't make a living off of it," Rosenlee said. "If we don't find ways to increase taxation in order to pay for the schools, we're never going to fix the problem. Our buildings are falling down, we're not going to have enough teachers and our students will be the worse off because of it."
The "It's a Great Day to be a Teacher" career fair was the first of its kind held at Leeward Community College and organizers plan to make it an annual event.