Editor’s note: One of Civil Beat’s most popular features, the database of public employee salaries, is taking shape for the 2020 fiscal year, which began July 1. We update the salary database when new union contracts are signed and new budgets are put in place reflecting salary increases.

When the Hawaii Department of Education raised the pay ranges for some of its top administrative positions recently, it was with the intent of making them more attractive to school principals.

But the latest update to Civil Beat’s salary database shows some principals still have the potential to earn more money than the deputy superintendent, seven assistants and 15 complex area superintendents.

The pay range for Deputy Superintendent Phyllis Unebasami is now $155,000 to $185,000, with the high end reflecting a $5,000 increase. But 11 high school principals are in a pay range that tops out higher at $196,470 (the low end is $138,791).

And another 44 high school or intermediate school principals have a pay range of $127,684 to $180,750, topping out higher than the ranges for assistant superintendents ($150,000 to $180,000) and complex area superintendents ($145,000 to $175,000).

Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.

Since 2010, we have been publishing a database with the names, titles and salaries of tens of thousands of public employees. Salaries are a major component of state and county budgets and we think it’s important for taxpayers to know how their money is being spent.

The latest addition is a big one: 22,395 DOE employees.

The DOE lists wide salary ranges instead of specific pay amounts for almost all of its employees. One exception is Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, who earns $240,000 annually.

Most government agencies release the specific salaries of their top officials instead of ranges, but in 1989 the Legislature decided that all DOE and University of Hawaii positions would only have to release ranges, not specific salaries even for top officials. That was changed for UH executives in 1992, but remains the law for the DOE.

Civil Beat still requested specific salaries for the highest-paid DOE employees, but the department has refused to provide them, citing the law as it applies to DOE.

The DOE’s new salary range took effect July 1, and the adjustments made recently for top administrators is retroactive to that date.

HSTA Teacher march to Hawaii State Capitol in the Rotunda. 13 feb 2017
Members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association marched on the State Capitol in 2017 calling for higher pay. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Gigantic Pay Difference For Teachers

At least 367 DOE employees definitely make six-figure salaries. None is a teacher, although a select few instructors are in ranges that top out above $100,000.

Teacher pay in Hawaii is considered the lowest in the country when adjusted for cost of living. That’s believed to cause young, inexperienced teachers from the mainland to leave after only a few years because they can’t afford to stay, contributing to a high teacher turnover and shortage.

The database shows there are currently 10 pay ranges for teachers, with the highest being $70,599 to $100,573 and the lowest being $36,708 to $68,988.

Under the terms of a 2017-2021 contract, teachers are in the midst of receiving a 13.6% pay increase.

Pay can vary widely for principals as well, with the top administrators in elementary schools receiving $108,064 to $173,363. Secondary principals get $122,467 to $196,470.

Some other notes from the DOE information:

• The database includes 334 vice principals in four pay ranges that top out at $128,624 and go as low as $80,174.

• There are 548 counselors listed, and 225 of them are in a pay range of $62,362 to $88,839. Almost all the rest earn $36,708 to $68,708.

• Fifty-three ROTC instructors are paid $70,000 to $130,000.

• The lowest DOE pay range is occupied by five school security attendants at $12,120 to $18,635.

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