HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state says it has a plan to tackle the severe teacher shortage across the state. Officials hope to increase pay for classroom teachers in three areas: special education, Hawaiian language immersion programs, and hard-to-staff geographic locations.

Hawaii is in dire need of teachers. The teacher’s union says there are more a thousand positions they cannot fill and are currently filled with emergency hires and substitute teachers.

“Nearly a third of all the shortage in the state is in hard-to-staff areas, the other third is in special education,” said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. “Some of our students, year after year, are denied access to qualified teachers that have a long term impact on student achievement and the quality of their lives.”

Under the proposal, classroom teachers would receive the following annual differential in addition to their current salary:
$10-thousand for special education,
$3- to 8-thousand dollars for teachers who work in hard-to-staff areas, and an additional $8-thousand annually for Hawaiian language immersion.
That means a qualified special education teacher who earns about $49-thousand would be eligible to receive $10-thousand more.

“We want to be able to encourage teachers with this differential to stay for a longer time period and commit to these areas with this differential pay,” said Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto.

The state wants to implement the pay incentives next month. So based on the nearly 17-hundred eligible special education teachers, the pay differential would cost $8.45-million this fiscal year which ends June 30th. Governor David Ige says he’s committed to making this a priority.

“Talking with the Superintendent and members of the board, we felt compelled to take action now. Is there a risk? Absolutely,” said the Governor.

We spoke to UH students studying to be teachers. When we asked them about the proposed incentives, the response we got was mixed.

“It gives teachers more motivation. Obviously, you already have that in you, the money doesn’t really matter you want to do it any way but it would definitely give more of an incentive,” said Hannah Brown.

“Personally, I have a passion for elementary students like K-3 and also preschool age so I would not want to shift my interests or my field just because of a higher pay raise,” said Katie Ahern.

The Governor plans to include it in the executive supplemental budget that will be submitted to the legislature in mid-December.