HONOLULU (KHON2) — Keeping early educators has proven to be a challenge in Hawaii with low compensation causing teachers to leave and preventing others from joining the profession.
“Every year for the past five years we have lost childcare providers across our state which means we’re able to serve less children which has dire impacts on families and communities as a whole and our economy as a state,” said Kathleen Algire of the Hawaii Children’s Action Network.
According to the Early Childhood Action Strategy, the numbers are alarming.
“Hawaii’s early childhood workforce suffers from chronically low wages which places early educators at over a 16% poverty rate and significantly contributes to annual turnover rates between 26% and 40%,” said Vivian Eto of the Early Childhood Action Strategy.
Now, state lawmakers are looking to help attract and retain preschool teachers through stipends. A pilot program would also be created boosting pay for a small group of teachers to 17 dollars an hour.
“Most of the people who are in this arena are earning about 12 dollars so we’re hoping to have up to 17 dollars as as compensation,” said Sen. Bennette Misalucha, (D) Pearl City, Aiea, Halawa.
Compensation programs are not unheard of. Washington D.C. passed a measure to give up $14,000 to childcare workers and to permanently raise wages. A proposal like this is crucial to help working families who rely on early education programs.
“Many families in Hawaii can find themselves paying a quarter or more of their incomes on childcare and can’t be expected to shoulder the burden of doing right by our childcare workforce,” said Eto.
Sen. Misalucha said the intent of the bill is a win for all.
“We want to ensure that people who have good hearts and would want to go into this profession that they won’t consider another lucrative career, because this will never pay enough,” explained Misalucha. “So our children will have stability, because the programs won’t experience high turnover in staff and of course, our early educators can get the recognition that they deserve.”
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The bill passed through the House Thursday and will go to a third reading.