New and untenured teachers in Hawaii will no longer have to pay a $54 annual licensing fee thanks to the governor’s recent signing of House Bill 1070 into law.

Act 116 appropriates $1.3 million in annual funding for at least the next two years to the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board, the licensing entity for Hawaii teachers, counselors and librarians since 2003.

The boost in funding allows HTSB to staff up its office with six permanent full-time positions and receive more operational funds, enabling the coverage of all teachers’ license fees.

As of 2012, the board had depended on a special fund generated by licensing fees. But things like fringe benefits, negotiated salaries and other costs surpassed the income from the fees, according to testimony in support of HB 1070 submitted by Lynn Hammonds, the executive director of HTSB, to the Legislature this year.

Ceiling fans blow in warm August at Makaha Elementary School.
The DOE had covered the $54 annual license fee for tenured teachers. The new law covers fees for all teachers. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Not all teachers have had to pay the annual fees: starting 2015, under a collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union, the Hawaii DOE has been covering the fee for tenured teachers, which steered $500,000 yearly in payments to HTSB.

However, new teachers or those who teach in public charter schools weren’t covered in that agreement.

Act 116 takes effect Friday. Sunday would have been the payment deadline for teacher license fees.

“This means as of Friday, licenses and permits that are pending payment will be active,” the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the teachers’ union, wrote to its members. “Feel free to ignore any reminders for pending payments,” it added, paraphrasing HTSB.

According to the union, Hawaii is now one of the few states around the country where teachers don’t have to pay for license fees.

Unfortunately, teachers who’ve already renewed their licenses for the upcoming school year cannot get refunds. Payments already processed will go to the State of Hawaii General Fund, according to the teachers’ union. Some teachers wrote on an HSTA Facebook thread they had received payment renewal reminders months ago and already paid their $54 fee.

Update June 27:  The HSTA updated its website on Thursday to clarify that any transactions made between June 21 — the day the governor signed the bill — to June 26, the date of the announcement, can be reversed, just not payments made prior to June 21.

Act 116 also appropriates $600,000 to the “Grow Our Own” program for 2019-20 and 2020-21. The program is a joint DOE-University of Hawaii partnership that helps Hawaii residents who are long-time substitutes or educational assistants in DOE schools get post-baccalaureate training and gain teacher licensure.

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