DOE raises pay to retain contractors
The state Department of Education increased the pay for some private special-needs workers yesterday, a week after providers warned that a lower cap would lead to a shortage of services for children.
The DOE will limit at $34.56 the hourly rate for agencies offering skills trainers, up from the $27 proposed. The pay for intensive instructional support consultants will be set at $80.04 an hour instead of $63.
"I'm thrilled that the DOE made this decision," said Tina McLaughlin, chief executive officer of Child and Adolescent Resources for Education Inc., or CARE Hawaii. "It allows the current types of treatment being offered to continue."
CARE Hawaii, which works with special-needs children at several Oahu public schools, had expected to lose as many as 80 percent of its 150 employees to private firms outside Hawaii offering better pay, McLaughlin said. Under the revised rates, the company might be able to hire more people and even increase training for new recruits, she said.
"I think it will stave off future lawsuits, and it preserves the work of developing this core of highly skilled providers," she said.
McLaughlin was among some half-dozen representatives of companies statewide who came to the state Capitol last week to ask the DOE to rethink its plans to lower rates. Many said they were already operating in debt, and a rate drop could force them to shut down.
The new hourly rates, which take effect July 1, will pay skills trainers between $14 and $19, and about $40 for intensive instructional support consultants. Agencies in rural areas of Kau, Kohala, Hana, Lanai and Molokai will receive an extra 9 percent per hour, according to the department.
Debra Farmer, DOE administrator for special education, said the lowest rates had been set to make sure taxpayer money was spent wisely. The DOE reviewed detailed financial reports from providers and based the new amount on the median of contracted rates.
While he applauded the department's decision, Jeffrey Bergbauer, administrative director for the Institute for Family Enrichment, said the pay for psychiatric workers was not addressed. Although the revised rates will allow the institute to "retain and train" its employees, the group will no longer contract with the DOE for psychiatric services for about 170 families here and on the Big Island, he said.
The department is willing to pay only $159 an hour for work that costs the institute $222, Bergbauer said. "We fly psychiatrists here from Oahu. It's a cost for us. We have to set up a doctor's office, have a receptionist ... and put them up at a hotel."
Farmer said the DOE rates for psychiatric services were based on current community rates at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division and MedQUEST. She added that the department would look to hire other agencies if current providers decided to cancel their contracts.