WalletHub has struck again, and Hawaii’s union for teachers is calling for change.

The finance and credit website ranks Hawaii 51st in the nation when it comes to best and worst states for teachers (the analysis includes the District of Columbia).

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee responded by saying it’s time for the state to make financial investment in schools a priority.

Here are some of Hawaii’s “teacher-friendliness” metrics, according to a press release Monday, many of them unflattering:

  • 51st – average starting salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living)
  • 51st – median annual salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living)
  • 39th – WalletHub “school systems” ranking
  • 39th – teachers’ income growth potential
  • 21st – projected number of teachers per 1,000 students by year 2022
  • 34th – 10-year change in teacher salaries
  • 37th – pupil-teacher ratio
  • 19th – public-school spending per student
Central middle school. 13 july 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Central Middle School in Honolulu. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“Most educators don’t pursue their profession for the money,” says a WalletHub press release. “Despite their critical role in shaping young minds, teachers across the U.S. are shortchanged every year. In fact, education jobs are some of the lowest-paying occupations that require a bachelor’s degree, and their salaries consistently fail to keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, the law demands better student performance without providing educators much guidance or incentive to improve their own effectiveness in the classroom.”

West Virginia, Arizona, Oregon and Mississippi joined Hawaii as bottom-dwellers for worst teachers.

The best states for teachers are New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota and Wyoming.

Report ‘Not A Surprise’

Donalyn Dela Cruz, director of the Communications and Community Affairs Office for the state Department of Education, said the report was “not a surprise.”

“Over the years, the department worked jointly with the Hawaii State Teachers Association on compensation,” she said. “Specifically, we jointly worked on a ‘Study of Hawaii’s Compensation System’ in 2014. The DOE and HSTA jointly funded this study. The study found that teachers in Hawaii make about 4 percent less than teachers in the rest of the U.S.”

Dela Cruz added, “However, the study also noted that professional salaries are lower in Hawaii than the rest of the U.S. The study also found that Hawaii teachers minimum salaries are higher than all of the average minimum salaries for comparison districts. While Hawaii has higher salaries earlier in a teacher’s career it becomes less competitive and somewhat lower salaries later in the career.”

The HSTA represents 13,500 public and charter school teachers.

‘Teacher Shortage Crisis’

But the union’s president, Rosenlee, said HSTA does not the support the conclusions of the two-year-old study cited by the DOE because “it was based on faulty data and did not compare Hawaii to school districts with similar costs of living.”

As for the WalletHub report, he had this to say:

“What does it say to the children of Hawaii that our public school teachers are treated the worst in the nation?

“Chronic underfunding of public schools tells our children that we don’t value education and we don’t value them. It’s time that the leaders of Hawaii make education a priority by investing in our schools.

“Because the state is underfunding our schools, we have a teacher shortage crisis. 

“Every day, tens of thousands of students don’t have a qualified teacher in their classrooms because, as this study shows, Hawaii is the worst place in the nation to teach.

“Because of this situation, in the last five years, more Hawaii teachers have been leaving the profession and fewer teachers have been entering the field.

“When you underpay our teachers and you micromanage them, this study confirms what we already know, that Hawaii is the worst place in the country to teach.

“To change that, we need to start paying and treating our teachers like the professionals they are.”

The starting salary for a DOE uncertified teacher is $34,840. Certified teachers start at $45,963, while the average teacher earns about $55,000.

“Hawaii’s starting teacher salaries are about $4,000 less than districts with similar costs of living, and the average teacher salaries are about $15,000 to $20,000 lower than their mainland counterparts,” said Rosenlee.

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