HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Education is expecting a budget cut of $400 million and officials warn that could mean 1,300 teaching positions could be cut.
“I don’t mince words about our budget, we are in crisis when it comes to the school system,” said Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. “We have been talking about furloughs, but behind the furloughs are the potential of a significant reduction in force.”
The 1,300 represents 10% of the 13,000 teaching positions statewide.
Kishimoto said the state Legislature, governor and stakeholders need to work out a better way to make up for the shortfall.
They say that’s easier said than done.
“We don’t want to cut the DOE budget,” said state Sen. Michelle Kidani, chair of the Senate Education Committee. “But the DOE budget is 20 to 22% of the state’s finances.”
“We can’t help but make those cuts. I’m hoping they won’t be as severe as we’re predicting.”
Despite the large number of expected cuts, it was actually worse weeks ago.
Kishimoto sent out a letter to DOE employees saying up to 1,850 teaching positions could potentially be cut. That has since been adjusted as budget officials worked the numbers.
Still, the Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee said the short- and long-term effects of such widespread cuts will be devastating.
“We already have a shortage of 1,000 teachers. If we lose 1,000 more, who is going to be the adult in the front of the classroom and that is what is so scary right now,” Rosenlee said.
The budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July, won’t be finalized until May. In the meantime,, everyone involved is hoping for more help from the federal government to help bridge the gap.