Big headlines! Top news! Hawaii facing public school teacher shortage with opening of new school year! Again!

Deja vu. Same story last year. And the year before. And on and on and on. With the same result: Lots of emergency hires, qualifications be damned.

So now we have a Department of Education bemoaning the circumstances that have the state desperately trying to fill positions by offering one-time “incentives.” Perhaps it is finally come to roost with the department that salaries here are not enough to attract highly qualified teachers from the mainland.

If that is not enough evidence, if teacher salary surveys putting Hawaii on the bottom does not register with the DOE budgeteers and the Legislature’s funding solons, the failure of “quick fix” solutions to teacher recruitment and retention will continue to result in headlines annually that describe in no uncertain terms the dire straits public education is in.

Campbell High teachers protest

Teachers at Campbell High School protest contract negotiations in 2012.

This is not fixable through an easy, one-shot bonus. This is systemic. There are termites in the foundation. While the DOE in its inestimable wisdom has spent the past decade and billions in taxpayer money on the idiocy that is Common Core, standardized testing in overdrive, and teacher evaluation that is tied to meaningless testing scores, the teacher recruitment and retention question has remained, grown exponentially, and is reaching the point of no return.

To truly understand the problem, consider this reality. I work at a Title I school, a federal designation given schools where over 50 percent of the students registered qualify for “free or reduced lunch,” the federal subsidy for low-income students. In my school’s case, that proportion is over 80 percent.

Some of our staff have children that qualify. I repeat, some of our staff have children that qualify!

Poor kids going to a poor school, staffed with poor personnel. Don’t get me wrong — “poor” has to do with economics, the demographics, not the quality of education. Indeed, many of our students have exemplified themselves as scholars. Our school represents a century of tradition, where many of our parents attended as elementary school students. And many of our staff are as good as staff comes in our state, or even our nation. Yet we labor in deteriorating conditions, overcrowded classrooms, and resources that do not compare favorably even with newer schools located less than a mile away. Some of our children are destitute, have no support at home, if they are lucky enough to be living in a home.

School districts throughout the country are sounding the teacher shortage alarm for similar reasons. Ours would be worse, if not for the perception that Hawaii is paradise.

Why, you might ask, does any teacher work where the odds seem so against students scoring well on standardized tests used to judge teacher performance? Yet, we do.

But too much is too much. A young, experienced, bright, creative, technologically literate, highly qualified teacher — just the kind DOE wants to retain — told me the other day that she had decided to resign and move to the mainland. She just could not take it anymore.

Despite having taught with a teaching credential for several years in California, and seven more in a Hawaii charter school, she is paid at entry level because her Hawaii public school experience is not seen as enough to entitle her or any other “new hire” even to the 3 percent raise the teachers union won in protracted negotiations for the current contract. More may come in another year. Maybe.

School districts throughout the country are sounding the teacher shortage alarm for similar reasons. Ours would be worse, if not for the perception that Hawaii is paradise.

Nevertheless, paradise is costing too much. And far too little has been done to address this. Deja vu!

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