Monday, April 16, 2001

Demand for
teachers prompts
private schools
to raise tuition

'We're facing the reality
that salaries have lagged,'
says one administrator

School by school

By Christine Donnelly

Tuition is rising next year at Hawaii's private schools, with several citing the need to pay teachers more amid a nationwide shortage.

"We're investing in our faculty, is what it comes down to," said Lou Salza, head of ASSETS School, which specializes in educating gifted and dyslexic children. "We're facing the reality that salaries have lagged, and we don't want to lose people."

The Honolulu school is raising tuition 8 percent for the 2001-2002 year, making annual base tuition $10,750 for elementary school, $13,400 for high school.

The "significant" hike would help raise teachers salaries up to 4 percent and help fund four new positions -- two teaching and two administrative -- to ease workload, Salza said. ASSETS head teachers now earn from $26,000 to $45,500, he said. Salza noted that the nationwide shortage of teachers was especially acute in the areas of math, science and special education. "We have very dedicated employees, but there's a lot of opportunities out there, and we needed to compensate them more," he said.

Punahou School also cited faculty compensation as a factor in its tuition hikes, ranging from 5.3 percent to 7.7 percent.

Tuition for kindergarten through third grade will rise $750, to $10,550 a year; grades four through six will rise $670, to $10,750 a year; and grades seven through 12 will increase $550, to $10,950.

The school must "keep faculty compensation, benefits and professional development opportunities at the most competitive level possible" while also investing in technology and facilities, according to a letter sent to parents of Punahou students. The hikes are uneven because Punahou aims to eventually charge the same tuition at all grade levels.

The Hongwanji Mission School is raising tuition 7.2 percent to fund teacher raises, after four years with the same salary schedule. "Salaries are our biggest expense. When they go up, so does tuition. We value our teachers and want to keep them," said Lois Yasui, principal of the Buddhist school. She mentioned the teacher shortage in a letter sent home to parents.

But not all tuition increases are bigger than usual. Several well-known institutions, including Iolani School and Le Jardin Windward Oahu Academy, kept their hikes around 3 percent.

"We're mindful of the burden on parents and have tried to keep our increase moderate. We know the state isn't coming out of the recession all that quick," said Glenn Ching, director of finance at Iolani, where tuition will rise $300, to $9,800 for grades kindergarten through 12.

Dave Millard, business officer at Le Jardin, said school officials work constantly to balance "reasonable salaries and reasonable tuition."

Officials at every school noted that tuition does not cover the full cost of educating students, with schools relying on endowments, fund-raisers and other sources to bridge the gap. They also said they strive to increase the amount of financial aid available to needy students as tuition rises.

Robert Witt, executive director of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, said the teacher shortage is a "big issue" for private schools, some of which are losing faculty to public schools in Hawaii -- which on average pay higher salaries and better retirement and health benefits -- and to areas on the mainland where the cost of living is lower.

"Our schools have to pay competitive salaries if they want to keep their faculty, and for most of them the only way to come up with the money is to raise tuition," said Witt.

The average private school teacher earned $35,585 this year, according to an HAIS survey.

The average for new teachers was $27,293, and $47,844 for experienced ones, Witt said. The survey included 26 of 42 HAIS members, which are mainly independent, nonsectarian schools.

In Hawaii's public schools, the salary range is $29,000 to $58,000 a year, with the average $39,000, according to the Department of Education.

Public teachers have been on strike since April 5, shutting down the school system, to back their demands for 22 percent pay hikes over four years.

Leaders of the Hawaii State Teachers Association argue it will take close to that to attract quality teachers to the profession and keep them in the classroom.

Danielle Lum, spokeswoman for the HSTA, said that while the average salary is higher in public schools, some elite private schools pay experienced teachers more than $65,000, currently an unattainable figure in the public sector.

"I know, because we lose teachers to those schools. The drain goes both ways," she said. "The bottom line is that teachers deserve to make a decent living, wherever they are, especially with the shortage. It's supply and demand."

Salza, of ASSETS School, said some private schools would never be able to compete with the public sector on pay and benefits but could offer teachers other advantages, such as smaller classes and fewer disciplinary problems. "Our teacher-student ratio is 1-to-8 in elementary school. Individual attention -- that's why we're expensive, but it's also why a lot of people like us."

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Cost of education

Here is the current and future tuition at some of Hawaii’s largest private schools, for first grade and ninth grade. The figures include tuition. Some schools may charge additional fees.

ASSETS School$9,950$10,7508.0%
Hanalani Schools$4,065$4,1852.9%
Hawaii Baptist Academy$6,730$7,0705.0%
Hawaii Prepatory Academy$8,950$9,3504.5%
Hongwanji Mission School$4,850$5,2007.2%
Iolani School$9,500$9,8003.2%
Le Jardin Windward Oahu Academy$8,440$8,6953.0%
Maryknoll School$7,000$7,4005.7%
Punahou School$9,800$10,5507.7%
Sacred Hearts Academy$4,744$4,9344.0%
St. Andrew’s Priory School$8,300$8,4652.0%

ASSETS School$12,400$13,4008.1%
Damien Memorial High School$5,650$5,850 3.5%
Hanalani Schools$4,540$4,6602.6%
Hawaii Baptist Academy$7,230$7,5905.0%
Hawaii Prepatory Academy*$11,650$12,1504.3%
Iolani School$9,500$9,8003.2%
Maryknoll School$7,900$8,3005.1%
Mid-Pacific Institute*$9,985$10,4855%
Punahou School$10,400$10,9505.3%
Sacred Hearts Academy$6,448$6,7064.0%
St. Andrew’s Priory School$8,575$8,7502.0%
Saint Louis School$6,650$7,0005.3%

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