HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's high cost of living is spurring Hawaii teachers to quit their jobs at an alarming rate.
Employment reports from the state Department of Education show 411 teachers resigned and left Hawaii during the 2016-2017 school year.
That's up from 266 in 2012-2013.
The increase doesn't surprise Carrie Rose, a special education teacher at Waialua Elementary School, who is getting ready to move to Colorado.
"It's been a hard decision to make. I love what I do, I love the people I work with, and I have great staff and administration," she said. "But providing my kids with a quality of life in Hawaii is just becoming harder and harder each year."
Rose says she always dreamed of raising her family in Hawaii. But on a teacher's salary, she says it's extremely difficult.
"It's sad that if I want to stay here, I have to choose something other than teaching," she said. "And I don't want to choose something other than teaching because that's my passion. That's what I'm meant to do."
The 34-year-old mother of two says she's moving to Colorado Springs for another teaching job, even if it comes with a pay cut.
"When you compare the cost of living, the average median home price in Colorado Springs is about $250,000. And with the position I just took, I don't pay anything for my medical," Rose said.
Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, says the latest DOE statistics are startling.
In a presentation to the Board of Education on Thursday, he said:
- Teacher vacancies are up 51 percent from 2011.
- The number of unlicensed teachers who don't meet state qualifications rose 63 percent from 2011.
- The number of in-state education program graduates dropped 29 percent from 2010.
"We have over 1,000 positions in Hawaii that are unfilled. There is no longer any position in Hawaii where we do not have a shortage," Rosenlee said.
Education officials say they have started putting together a five-year plan to help recruit and keep teachers in Hawaii.
One idea is to start inspiring future teachers at an earlier age.
"Introducing the middle school age students to what's it like to be a teacher, why is it great, and expose them earlier," said Cindy Covell, DOE's assistant superintendent of talent management. "We're really looking at the pipeline from early, to in-college, to post-college, so you can come work as a teacher in Hawaii."
But Rosenlee says the state has to find a way to increase teacher salaries and offer more incentives before the trend gets much worse.
"It always comes back to funding. We have these great ideas, it's the implementation that kills us," Rosenlee said.
Come November, HSTA hopes voters will approve a constitutional amendment that would tax residential investment properties to help fund public education. The proposal is opposed by the counties who rely on property taxes, as well as the real estate industry, which says it could raise rents for local residents.