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Bill that would boost teachers’ pay moves forward

A proposal that would help improve teacher compensation has passed another hurdle in the state Legislature.

Senate Bill 2488 was recommended for approval with amendments Wednesday by the Senate Ways and Means committee.

As it stands, the bill would authorize a onetime $25 million appropriation from the state’s general revenues to fund discretionary teacher salary adjustments as part of an “experimental modernization project” tackling teacher pay equity issues, pay differentials for certain teachers, or both.

Duncan Osorio, bills chief for the Ways andz Means Committee, said the committee’s amendment proposes an additional allocation of nearly $9 million for fringe benefits.

However, the committee will reconsider the bill to increase the funding amount and clean up the appropriation language.

“What we found out is that $25 million is just not enough money to fulfill the whole intention (of the bill),” he said.

The state Department of Education launched a multi-phased initiative to address teacher compensation late last year, and on Jan. 7, a pay differential — approved by the state Board of Education in December — was implemented to increase pay for teachers in areas with the most severe shortages: special education, Hawaiian language immersion and geographically hard-to-staff schools.

For the second phase, the DOE is seeking funding for an “experimental modernization project” to address equity and compression in teacher salaries.

Pay compression happens when there is only a small difference in pay between employees, regardless of skills or experience.

This second phase will allow the department, at its discretion, to adjust pay for existing teachers if it’s determined a salary is less than or equal to less experienced teachers in comparable positions.

Written testimony in support of SB 2488 was submitted from state Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, the state Public Charter School Commission, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Kamehameha Schools and others prior to the Ways and Means hearing.

Roberta Shibuya, a kindergarten teacher at Waiakea Elementary with 13 years of service said in written testimony both she and her husband, who has 20 years of service as a teacher, are among those “‘stuck’ in our ‘steps.’”

“I love teaching but soon my daughter will be heading off to college,” she said. “My husband will have had 25 years in by then and I will be close to 20. We are probably going to leave the island and look for other teaching positions in another state.”

Some testimony even called for greater funding.

Craig Hirai, director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, however, said in testimony that because the cost for the teacher compensation plan will be a recurring expense, “the department prefers the administration’s measure, which has budgeted the estimated recurring costs for the teacher compensation plan.”

Brian Hallett, chief financial officer and assistant superintendent for the Office of Fiscal Services said in an email to the Tribune-Herald that the DOE is seeking legislative support amounting to $10.2 million for the current fiscal year and $30.7 million for the next fiscal year to address the pay differentials.

Gov. David Ige included funding in his proposed executive budget for lawmakers to consider, a request the DOE continues to support, he said.

“There are a lot of moving parts at this point in the session and we are closely tracking all options as this effort is among the department’s highest legislative priorities,” Hallett said.

The DOE on Thursday presented identified funding sources to to the state Board of Education, which requested “alternate scenarios for the board-approved differentials for the current fiscal year,” he said.

In a Feb. 20 memo to Kenneth Uemura, chairman of the BOE’s Finance and Infrastructure Committee, Kishimoto said that if additional funding is not appropriated, differentials for the current fiscal year could be be funded from a number of sources, including: the release of $5.42 million in funds restricted by the governor’s administration in the event that state revenues aren’t as robust as predicted; $1.26 million transferred to the DOE after per-pupil charter school funding amounts were corrected to match with actual enrollment counts; $575,000 previously required to fund teacher licenses; and $2.95 million estimated carry-over funds from 2018-19.

“For the second year of the biennium, we are encouraged by the positive progression of Senate Bill 2488, which recognizes the urgent need to recruit and retain qualified teachers,” Hallett said. “If the initiative continues into the next biennium, there will (be) an opportunity to include the differentials as part of any agreement that may be reached through collective bargaining negotiations.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at
ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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