Hawaii’s battered teaching force faces prospect of deep salary cuts

Teachers union ‘terrified’ of what proposed pay cuts would do to Hawaii’s teaching force

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Public school teachers across the state were stunned and upset to hear their pay could be cut 20% to help the state balance its budget.

While Gov. David Ige said Wednesday no decisions have been made, teachers union President Corey Rosenlee says discussions with the administration seemed to indicate it could take effect May 1.

Rosenlee says a 20% cut would significantly impact the state’s ability to recruit and retain quality educators. “Passing cuts onto your workers will only hurt the economy, hurt our workers, and hurt our keiki,” he said. “There are alternatives. The state also has over $1 billion in its cash surplus and rainy day fund. Governor, it’s raining.”

The union, which represents nearly 14,000 educators, alerted its members of the proposal in a letter Tuesday night.

Lydia Haff, a new teacher at Waianae High School, said the news made her panic.

“I’m in my second year of teaching, so my pay isn’t very high. I have just started climbing the pay scale, and my paychecks go directly towards supporting my family with two of siblings who are still in high school,” Haff said.

Dana Shishido, a third grade teacher at Wheeler Elementary School, says she’s now considering retiring from teaching and getting another full-time job.

“I’ve been teaching for 30 years. I’ve gone through pay cuts in the past, I’ve gone through furloughs, neither of which I have financially recovered from,” said Shishido.

Ige says the state’s main sources of revenue have been drastically reduced because of the pandemic.

“We anticipate having to cut $1.5 billion over the next 15 months, which is a significant portion of the state’s budget,” Ige said. “We are looking at an emergency situation.”

He says he is not considering tax increases, and he says none of the more than $860 million the state expects in federal aid can be used for existing employees and programs.

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