Lawmakers fight for teacher bonuses, funding for Hawaii’s education system

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A bill that would give $2,200 bonuses to Hawaii public school teachers is now on Gov. Ige’s intent to veto list.

The announcement came during the week of Monday, June 21, but some lawmakers said there is still hope.

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Gov. Ige said the reason why the bill is on the veto list is that new guidance from the federal government states that rescue funds can not be used for the requests in the bill. One lawmaker believes it could work, however.

“There is a question about federal money being utilized in this bill and it has actually nothing to do with that $2,200 teacher incentive,” said Rep. Jeanne Kapela. “There are whole states that have used money they’ve received through the American Rescue Plan to help give teachers an incentive or to give them a bonus of some sort.”

The extra money is much-needed for some public school teachers.

“We had to upgrade some of the tools that we teach with in order to reach our students virtually,” said Sarah Milianta, a teacher at Ilima Intermediate School. “I know a lot of teachers who bought a second device so we can see our students on one screen and do work and lessons on the other for the class.”

The bonuses account for nearly $30 million in funds, but there is more to the bill than that.

“One of the things we’ve been trying to do is to air condition Hawaii’s classrooms and there’s $75 million in this bill to finally get that done,” said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. “There’s money for our complex areas and there’s money to make sure that we have social programs for our schools.”

The Hawaii State Teachers Association believes Hawaii could be looking at more teachers moving away without the funding.

“We can’t afford to lose even 100 more teachers than we have right now. So everything we can do to make sure that we retain our teaching force and to make sure that our kids have good teachers, that’s what we have to try to do,” Rosenlee said.

Bonuses for Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) staff like school principals, counselors and custodians were not included in the bill, but Kapela says, legislators did fund pay raises for HGEA in 2020. They will continue to support its employees.

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