Teacher Shortage Made Worse This Summer

Published: Jul. 13, 2006 at 10:44 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 16, 2006 at 2:05 AM HST
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Gerald Okamoto from the Department of Education
Gerald Okamoto from the Department of Education
Mark Cusmano, parent
Mark Cusmano, parent

by Kristine Uyeno

(KHNL) - Hawaii kids are enjoying their last few weeks of summer vacation. But for education officials, it's a very stressful time. They're still trying to hired hundreds of teachers.

Administrators know making ends meet in Hawaii on a teacher's salary can be challenging. That's part of the reason why the Education Department is having a tough time filling hundreds of vacant teaching positions. But there's more.

"What makes it more stressful is that we have a shorter summer to do it," said Gerald Okamoto with the state Department of Education.

A new school calendar means classes start earlier than ever before so officials are offering whatever they can to hire people.

"We will pay an incentive if they are teaching special education, we'll pay them an incentive if they go to hard to fill areas, geographically isolated areas," said Okamoto.

Hawaii isn't the only state dealing with a teacher shortage. Education officials across the mainland are also having a difficult time staffing classrooms.

"When No Child Left Behind was passed, it posed a higher requirement of highly qualified teachers so it raised the bar," said Okamoto.

Parents we talked to say they understand the problem.

"It's a sad issue but a real issue that we have," said Mark Cusmano, parent.

But they don't want substitute teachers filling in as a solution.

"As far as having a different face every day, that's a problem, there's no cohesiveness," said Cusmano.

They say education needs to be more of a priority.

Right now, the Department of Education is looking for teachers in all subjects, but there is more of a need for teachers who specialize in Hawaiian language and special education.