DOE finds a way to spare hundreds of teaching positions, but hundreds more at risk

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Updated: Jan. 11, 2021 at 5:43 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a bit of good news for Hawaii’s schools, Education Department officials have revised downward the number of teaching positions that will to be slashed amid the ongoing fiscal crisis. But even the rosier picture calls for hundreds of jobs lost.

Last week, the state Department of Education reported, as many as 1,300 teaching positions could be lost following deep budget cuts. The governor’s budget calls for $165 million in cuts to education in the next fiscal year. That’s on top of a $100 million shortfall for the current school year. Altogether, more than $400 million is expected to disappear from the DOE’s budget over a three-year period.

For the upcoming year, the new estimated reduction-in-force is as follows:

  • 800 teaching positions, including teachers, librarians and counselors
  • 50 school administrators, including vice principals and athletic directors.
  • 350 Instruction workers, such as educational assistants. These workers are especially crucial in special education classes.
  • And 135 non-instructional workers like custodians, security guards, office workers, and those working in the cafeteria.

Altogether, that’s more than 1,300 positions.

But Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee said it could be closer to 2,000 if the governor and lawmakers don’t find other ways to make up for the shortfall.

“The Department of Education right now, by the actual amount, is the largest cut to the state budget which should be something that the entire state should be up in arms and angry about,” Rosenlee said.

State Sen. Michelle Kidani, chair of the Education Committee, said Hawaii’s unique style of school funding hurts schools during difficult times.

“Hawaii is the only state in the nation where the counties don’t support school funding so that makes it harder for us,” Kidani said, “Our income tax payments will be much lower because people were out of work” but, she said, the counties still get property tax money in a mostly consistent way.

The federal government is providing more than $180 million in emergency relief to public schools, but that will likely be needed to make up for this school year’s shortfalls.

Lawmakers say positions that were vacant for more than a year have already been swept so those don’t count in the new projected cuts.

There is an informational briefing Wednesday before the Senate Education Committee to discuss the funding woes. Kidani expects more details about the budget cuts will be revealed.

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