A tentative agreement between the union and the state bumps entry level pay up to over $50,000.

Public school teachers will likely see significant salary increases over the next four years, pending approval of a new contract between the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the governor’s office.

These raises are intended to both retain and attract talent amid a statewide educator shortage.

“We’re constantly over a thousand teachers short, and I didn’t want to see us experience early retirements,” Gov. Josh Green said Monday at a press conference. 

Gov. Josh Green, at the podium, emphasized the teacher shortage as he announced the state’s agreement with the teachers union to significantly boost educator pay. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

It was a contrast to the pandemic-era agreement from two years ago, when the teachers union acknowledged that it had struck a lackluster deal with the state that included no salary increases.

Not so this year.

Entry-level salary is set to increase to $50,325 and top-level salary to $101,371. Previously, those respective salaries were $38,521 and $93,225. 

The contract is set to last until July 2027 and will cost $577 million in total, according to Green.

The next step is for HSTA members to vote on the contract, which is set to happen April 26. Top executives of the union agreed unanimously to recommend signing it, making ratification likely.

Pay increases include both across-the-board boosts – 2% in the contract’s first year, 3% in the second year and 3.5% in the fourth year – as well as lump sum payments of $3,000 to eligible employees. Employees jump up the next step in the pay scale during the contract’s third year, or they receive a lump sum of $3,000 if they’re already at the top “step” within their “class” of educational attainment.

Supplemental pay for things like being department head or leading the high school band also rose 50% from previous levels.

Teacher pay is determined by a formula that looks at years worked and education attained, and for years, teachers had complained that the system had caused so-called compression

Starting during the Great Recession, periodic negotiations between the HSTA and the state didn’t include the same level of pay bumps that teachers had been accustomed to, eventually leading to a significant portion of them hitting the maximum pay level. 

About 4,000 teachers – one-third of the workforce – are still stuck at that level. 

This tentative agreement includes adding an extra pay “class” for teachers to advance into, giving them a 4% salary boost if they attain the required professional development credits. 

It’s a compromise. The union had proposed shifting to a new pay schedule structure based solely on educational attainment, which would’ve incentivized completing more professional development, said Andrea Eshelman, HSTA’s Deputy Executive Director.

Beyond pay, educators also received a guaranteed day to revamp their lesson plans in the event of a school closure shifting class online. 

This was a hot topic during the pandemic, and after pay, was the most contentious component of the negotiation process, according to the HSTA’s summary of the agreement. Now, instead of having to negotiate expectations any time another closure occurs, there exists a formula to follow.

The cap for employer contributions to health care premiums also went up from 84.3% to 90%.

Civil Beat’s education reporting is supported by a grant from Chamberlin Family Philanthropy.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author