We always hear that teachers need to be paid more. So, why are we still talking about it and not doing something about it?
Here in Hawaii, where the cost of living is so high that comparatively teachers are the worst paid in the nation, you’d think we’d have addressed this issue by now. Maybe we don’t realize just how much teacher pay affects what happens to our keiki. A consulting company hired by the Hawaii Department of Education recently held (on short notice, and with little fanfare) listening sessions on a few islands to hear from the public about teacher compensation. The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), the local teachers union representing all 13,000 of Hawaii’s public school teachers, turned out dozens of teachers to share their struggles living on the wages they earn.
However, what was missing from these sessions was public school parents. This is a shame, because we need to be in this battle together in order to really make change. It’s not just that teachers deserve more pay for the fact that they do an incredibly important and stressful job, which they do. It’s not just because they work so much unpaid overtime. And it’s not just that they are grossly underpaid compared to other professionals with their same education level. When teachers aren’t paid well, our children suffer.
If your kids go to public school there is a 50% chance their teacher works at least part-time at a second job in order to survive financially. This means less time to spend preparing lessons or grading the work your child does. It also means less time for any kind of relaxation necessary to balance the stress of teaching. Burnout is common and Hawaii teacher turnover rates are high. As a result, there are about 1,000 unfilled teaching positions at the beginning of each school year. Thousands of our keiki go to school each day with at least one class in which there is no qualified teacher.
It’s vital that we pay teachers adequately so that teaching in Hawaii is a competitive job allowing teachers the stability to stay and live comfortably here. Research shows that the longer teachers teach the more effective they become. Our keiki deserve to have the very best teachers and in order to make that possible we need to stop losing good ones simply because they cannot afford to live here!
Image Credit: Lisa Morrison