Preschool teachers rally for better pay amid alarming exodus from the profession
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Scores of early childhood professionals are calling on lawmakers to invest in teachers before any more educators abandon the profession.
Early childhood education advocates converged on the state Capitol on Monday to push for better pay.
While demand for preschool in Hawaii is tremendous, many schools can’t find the teachers they need to staff their classrooms. The reason: Early childhood educators often don’t make enough to cover the bills..
“I can put an ad out for a teacher a qualified teachers and get zero responses repeatedly. Nobody is coming to see if they even meet the requirements,” said Julie Kalakau, director of Sunshine School in Kailua.
On average, preschool teachers makes between $13 and $17 an hour. That’s about half the state’s living wage.
The low pay has forced many to change careers.
Between 2018 and 2020, Hawaii lost 850 providers — or about 20% of the childcare workforce.
To help relieve the crisis, lawmakers are considering a measure that would help boost wages.
“HB 547 would ask the Department of Human Services to pilot a program so we can put public investments directly into the wages of those who are paid the least,” said Keopu Reelitz, director of early learning and health policy for Hawaii Children’s Action Network.
This push comes just as the lieutenant governor launches an ambitious plan to make affordable preschool available to all 3- and 4-year-olds who want to attend.
“I think the very real reality is that if we build a bunch of classrooms they might stand empty,” Reelitz said.
The Childcare Worker Subsidy Pilot Project crossed over to the Senate but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.
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