The Hawaii Department of Education is part of the state’s executive branch of government and administers federal and statewide educational policy. The department also prepares a systemwide budget for the public school system to submit to the Hawaii State Board of Education, which submits a final proposed budget to the Legislature. The department is overseen by the education board and run by the superintendent of education.
The superintendent is the CEO of the education department and is responsible for carrying out board and federal educational policies. The superintendent’s office also handles communications and oversees department operations.
Several divisions within the department cover the different aspects of public education in Hawaii:
The 2011 budget briefing provides a broad overview of the department’s finances and priorities.
Hawaii’s 256 public K-12 schools are distributed into 42 “complexes,” made up of a high school and its feeder schools. Complexes are grouped on a geographic basis into 15 complex areas, each of which is led by a complex area superintendent appointed by the department superintendent. The complex areas are distributed into seven geographic school districts, each of which is represented on the Hawaii State Board of Education.
The districts and complex areas are divided as follows:
Oahu (four districts, nine complex areas)
- Pearl City-Waipahu
Hawaii (one district, three complex areas)
Maui/Molokai/Lanai (one district, two complexes)
Kauai/Niihau: (one district, one complex)
As of the 2010-2011 school year, the department employed a total of about 21,929 full-time employees.
- Teachers: 56 percent
- Education officers: 4 percent
- “All other employees”: 40 percent
Analyzed another way:
Around 13,000 education department employees, or 59 percent, are directly involved in educating children on a daily basis at the school level:
- Vice principals
- Athletic trainers
About 5,003, or 23 percent, of the employees work in pure support positions at the school level. These include:
- Custodial workers
- Clerical employees
- Bus drivers
- Cafeteria workers
- Security attendants
One percent of the department’s employees work in an “educational administration” position:
- The superintendent and many who work in her office
- Assistant superintendents
- Budget analysts
- Personnel specialists
The remaining 17 percent provide educational support at the school and complex levels:
- Speech pathologists
- Social workers
- Behavioral specialists
- Human services professionals
- Bilingual and bicultural specialists
- Library assistants
- Mental health supervisors
The Department annually publishes a full directory of its personnel. The department no longer prints the directory, but it is available in digital form:
Because the department answers to the board of education and fulfills the responsibilities the board lays out for it, it is difficult to hold the department accountable for any student achievement shortfalls. However, the board can shift onto the department or superintendent the responsibility for ineffective policies. This structure drew criticism from three former Democratic governors in 2010 who thought the superintendent should be the department’s chief policymaker instead of answering to a board.