Teachers union: Unlicensed emergency hires could have negative, long-term effects

Each school year, hundreds of unlicensed teachers are placed into Hawaii public school classrooms.

It’s part of the solution to the state’s teacher shortage problem.

The Hawaii Department of Education has struggled for years to fill vacancies using emergency hires, or teachers who don’t have a teaching license.

Right now, the Department of Education says it’s still hiring for the school year, which starts in two months.

Emergency hires are full-time teachers who are paid about $35,500 per year, compared to a licensed teacher with starting pay at over $45,000, according to the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

HSTA president Corey Rosenlee says emergency hires are people who are trying to get their teaching license, but aren’t yet qualified to teach.

“Too often what we’re doing is we’re taking teachers in their program and putting them into the field. Research shows that’s one of the worst things you can do,” he said.

Rosenlee says emergency hires are thrust into the profession too soon, end up getting burnt out, and then leave, which doesn’t help Hawaii’s ongoing teacher shortage.

He says many emergency hires are placed at schools in high-poverty areas, “especially out in our leeward coasts areas. You have 38 percent of teachers who are inexperienced, unqualified, or out of the field, which means on a daily basis, these kids are not getting an education that they deserve.”

The Department of Education declined our request for an interview, but said last school year (2016-2017), the DOE placed 389 emergency hires at schools across the state.

From 2015-2016, there were 396, and in the 2014 school year, there were 298.

The DOE added that emergency hires must earn their Hawaii teaching license within three years, or they’re out of a job.

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