Hawaii needs to work
harder to attract and
keep good teachers
Teaching in Hawaii's public schools has been my career and also my passion for 33 years. As I begin my first year as president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), I am greatly encouraged by the outpouring of support for public schools from members of the community.
In the days ahead approximately 185,000 public school students will be returning to school ready to acquire knowledge, master skills and nurture abilities that will help them realize their potential. What they learn today will help them to create a better future for themselves tomorrow. A fine example of this is Molokai High School's Anastashia Swaba, who will be the first Molokai graduate to attend Yale University.
Hawaii's schools are brimming with energetic and talented students like Anastashia, who will mature into the leaders of the 21st century, and they deserve the best our state has to offer.
It's a well-documented fact that the two most important factors in a child's educational career are 1) supportive, nurturing and active parents, and 2) a highly qualified teacher. The state Department of Education was challenged this year to fill 1,700 teaching positions by the start of the school year -- an astounding 200 more than last year.
The DOE is looking for these 1,700 teachers because nearly 60 percent of our teachers depart within two years of entering the profession.
They leave for many reasons: lack of administrative support, too much paperwork, lack of respect, poor learning conditions, poor benefits and low salary. It didn't surprise anyone in the education community when the most recent teacher salary survey showed that Hawaii wages are last in the nation when adjusted for the cost of living.
Hawaii's teachers are leaving for school districts in other states or other professions that offer higher salaries, more respect and better benefits.
Others retire from the department because they are just too overwhelmed with the ever-increasing workload.
Clearly, we need to make changes to retain one of our most valued resources -- our teachers.
I doubt you'll find a teacher who chose the profession of teaching because they wanted to get rich. Almost every teacher who became a teacher did so because they were inspired by a teacher at some point during their life or just wanted to make a difference in the lives of children.
Teachers want to teach, but without adequate support too many will leave.
We need competitive wages and improved working conditions or Hawaii will continue to lose our highly qualified public school teachers. It's that simple.
We need to commit to fully funding Hawaii's public education system. We need to show our teachers we respect them and the job they do day in and day out teaching our children that they can achieve their dreams by getting a solid education.
Teachers often pay for school supplies out of their own pocket, spend countless hours to develop effective, relevant and enjoyable lesson plans, voice support for students who need it or even put their students in front of their own children at one time or another.
Teachers are extremely dedicated and they deserve our respect. Let's all help our state leaders see the value of making public education a priority.
Let's work together to keep our qualified teachers in our public schools. The children of Hawaii deserve nothing less.
Roger Takabayashi is president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.