The last two years at Hawaii’s Department of Education were marked by leadership turnover and pay cuts, even as the overall budget and student enrollment grew.

For the second year in a row, Civil Beat filed a request under Hawaii’s open records law asking for the names, positions and salaries of all employees of the Hawaii Department of Education. The request is part of a larger effort to make more transparent how the state spends taxpayer money.

The education department is Hawaii’s largest single expense, accounting for one-quarter of the state’s $5.6 billion general fund.

With debt service and benefit costs for 22,000 employees, it costs taxpayers approximately $2.5 billion annually to run 255 regular public schools and 13 special- and adult-education schools. That’s up from $2.4 billion in the 2011 budget year. The department spends about $1.1 billion for salaries and the state pays about $500 million for fringe benefits. Together, those amount to 64 percent of the state’s total education expenditures.

The department’s Office of Human Resources provided Civil Beat with a list of all 22,009 department employees that included their names, professional titles, salary ranges and location (e.g. Campbell High School, or Superintendent’s Office).

Using that data, we found that many of our findings from 2010 still hold true:

  • The highest-paid employees still make about nine times more than the lowest-paid.
  • Many employees — a dramatic increase from last year — potentially qualify for the state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Who Works Where

The 22,009 employees fill 153 unique positions within the department, from speech pathologists and school psychologists to engineers and legal assistants — not to mention teachers and principals. The unionized employees are represented by 10 distinct bargaining units — each with its own contract — in three unions.

The employees can be broken down into three major groups: Teachers, education officers, and all others. Teachers still account for more than half of the employees, at 57 percent. Education officers, such as principals, vice principals, athletic directors and complex area superintendents, make up another 4 percent. All others — like speech pathologists, psychologists and food service workers — make up the remaining 39 percent.

Analyzed another way, the data show that 13,136 department employees, or 60 percent, are directly involved with teaching students at the school level on a daily basis.

About 5,000 employees, or nearly one-quarter, work in pure support positions and don’t have regular direct interactions with students. They are the electricians, inventory clerks, custodians and office employees.

The third-largest category is educational support, which accounts for 3,600 employees, or 16 percent. These are the teaching assistants, librarians, social workers and speech pathologists.

The fourth group is administrators, which accounts for 313 employees, only 1 percent of the total.

A few other interesting findings:

  • As many as 4,028 employees, or 18 percent, could qualify for federal nutrition assistance of up to $314 a month, based on the low end of their salary ranges.1 Last year, the number was 903, or 4 percent.
  • Department salaries range from a low of $17,176 to a high of $147,992, compared with the previous low and high of $18,078 and $155,782.
  • The 13 highest-paid high school principals have the potential to make almost $5,400 more than the superintendent. Last year, the high end of their income range would have earned them $6,000 more than Matayoshi, who now earns $142,500, down from $150,000 in 2010 and significantly less than the national average of $211,900 for school superintendents of districts with 25,000 students or more.
  • At least 94 school principals can make up to $33,992 more annually than the $114,000 that the four top-paid complex area superintendents make.

Number of Students Growing faster than Number of Employees

Despite the department’s overall budget increase, the number of employees has not kept pace with enrollment growth, and they’re earning less.

Legislators prescribed an $88.2 million labor cost savings for all state employees, $37.7 million of which was taken out of the education department’s personnel budget.

Most employees, including the state-level ones all the way up to Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, took the equivalent of a 5-percent pay cut through a combination of furlough days, increased health costs and salary decreases.

But even as salaries dropped 5 percent from their 2010-2011 levels, the state’s budget for Department of Education employee benefits went up by $60 million, or 13 percent.

The salary ranges in our database have been adjusted for reductions due to furloughs, unlike the salary data we published in 2010.

While the state’s mean annual salary for all occupations climbed from $42,760 to $43,740, the percentage of department employees with incomes above it remained the same, at 68 percent.

The number of students enrolled in the state’s regular public schools increased by 1.2 percent (from 169,992 to 172,109), while the number of employees only increased by 80, or 0.3 percent (from 21,929 to 22,009).

Even though employment numbers remained level throughout the department, there was turnover at the state level.

The department acquired a new permanent superintendent in 2010 who, with the newly appointed Hawaii State Board of Education, replaced three of the five assistant superintendents who oversee all the school district’s operations.

Assistant Superintendent of School Facilities and Support Services Randy Moore and Assistant Superintendent of Information Technology Services David Wu were the only two to hang onto their positions. It’s worth noting that Moore has voluntarily maintained the salary he earned as a teacher, and as a result earns about half of what the other four assistant superintendents earn — $56,010, compared with $109,250.

Things were more stable at the complex area level, where only two complex area superintendents out of 15 were replaced.

  • Lena Tran contributed to this story by analyzing the data provided by the Department of Education.

About the Author