Teachers look to BOE for support on protecting salaries as economic picture worsens

Published: May. 8, 2020 at 11:49 AM HST|Updated: May. 8, 2020 at 11:51 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Teachers are trying to pressure the state Board of Education to help protect their pay as the state Legislature prepares to start cutting the budget.

Though its faded to the back burner, still on the minds of thousands of teachers and other state workers is the possibility of a 20% pay cut — as previously called for by Gov. David Ige.

That proposal was initially met with a public outcry, and the governor backed off.

Most lawmakers — many of whom were blindsided by Ige’s announcement that employees should prepare for a possible cut — say slashing salaries for anyone in the state should be and remains an absolute last option.

But as the pandemic continues, the state is facing a revenue shortfall of at least $1 billion. That means difficult choices, from cutting pay to slashing programs, will almost certainly have to be made.

The teachers union says cutting salaries will only increase the shortage of teachers statewide.

“If these cuts are instituted, I cannot guarantee that we will have enough bodies to fill the classroom. Forget about qualified teachers,” said Corey Rosenlee, president of the HSTA.

DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto added that decisions should be made together, with all layers of leadership taking into account the long-lasting impacts.

“We are not supporting a pay cut,” she said. “If there is a possibility to switch out general fund dollars that are used for salaries with CARES Act funding, we evaluate that as a state.”

Kishimoto told the board about immediate savings, such as money not spent because campuses are closed.

Kishimoto also says the DOE will need funds to help with reopening schools — but that amount isn’t known yet. As of now, it’s also not known when students will be returning to in-person classes at Hawaii public schools.

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