State struggles to keep teachers in Hawaii despite recruiting efforts

Hawaii needs more public school teachers, but how many college students want the job?

Right now the Department of Education has hundreds of positions to fill. It’s looking for special education, math, and science teachers, just to name a few.

Overall, there are 410 open positions — currently filled by substitutes — and officials have been on recruiting trips across the country to fill those spots, places like Los Angeles, Dallas and New York.

The department says it is looking to hire more than 1,000 new teachers for the 2016-2017 school year.

Ken Capes, a teacher at Kaala Elementary School in Wahiawa, says many teachers recruited from the mainland eventually leave because it’s too expensive to live here.

“Both my wife and I are teachers and we are living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to pay our mortgage, buying groceries for our family and paying our basic bills,” Capes said.

Corey Rosenlee, president of Hawaii State Teachers Association, acknowledges, “We have a teacher crisis in Hawaii.”

He says pay and stress are some reasons why educators leave, and substitutes are often brought in to fill those empty spots.

“Every year we don’t have a quality teacher in the classroom, every year that is going to hurt those students,” he said.

The DOE says teachers have access to orientations, professional development and mentors, and the DOE recruits at local and national job fairs. It also uses social media ads to recruit.

According to the DOE website’s latest statistics, five-year teacher turnover has dropped from a peak of 50 percent in 2004 to 37 percent in 2012. The annual teacher turnover rate is just over eight percent.

We checked to see how many students have graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Education. The numbers break down as follows: 2015: 561, 2014: 544, 2013: 587, though they’re still down from 715 in 2011.

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