The Hawaii Department of Education spends as little as $4,965 on salaries per pupil and as much as $6,868 depending on which complex area they’re in, according to an analysis by Civil Beat.

That’s a gap of 38 percent between the complex areas with the lowest and highest per-pupil personnel expenses.

This year for the first time as part of its effort to examine government spending, Civil Beat was able to obtain Education Department salaries by complex area and school. We analyzed the salary and location information of the department’s 22,009 employees and found the total personnel costs for each of the state’s 15 geographic school areas.

Our analysis found that the Campbell-Kapolei complex area spends the least on employee salaries, at $4,901 per pupil.

Kailua-Kaleheo spends the most per-pupil on salaries, at $6,557.

Here is a table of the salary expenses by complex area:

Rank Complex Area Enrolled Total Per Pupil
1 CA Kailua-Kalaheo 6495 $6,557
2 CA Kau-Keaau-Pahoa 5474 $6,405
3 CA Castle-Kahuku 8211 $6,276
4 CA Hana-Lahainaluna-Lanai-Molokai 4882 $6,106
5 CA Hilo-Laupahoehoe-Waiakea 7856 $6,055
6 CA Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt 15311 $5,856
7 CA Nanakuli-Waianae 7888 $5,840
8 CA Hawaii-West 10226 $5,707
9 CA Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani 15940 $5,504
10 CA Kapaa-Kauai-Waimea 9311 $5,467
11 CA Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua 17485 $5,451
12 CA Aiea-Moanalua-Radford 15479 $5,278
13 CA Pearl City-Waipahu 15242 $5,142
14 CA Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui 15897 $4,991
15 CA Campbell-Kapolei 16407 $4,901

The discrepancies are largely because of decisions made at the school level, said Kailua-Kalaheo Complex Area Superintendent Suzanne Mulcahy.

For example, she has a couple of schools in her complex area where the principal and teachers opt for small class sizes, which increases personnel costs at those schools.

“One school could be spending 95 percent of its funding on personnel, whereas another may be spending only 80 percent,” Mulcahy said.

The amount of support the complex area superintendent provides to schools can also impact school-level salary costs, she said. A complex area superintendent could opt to hire a couple of highly efficient employees who can travel to all the schools in the complexes and meet certain school-level needs that way, for example.

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

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