Board of Education To Discuss Massive Teacher Layoffs and Budget Cuts at Virtual Meeting Jan. 21
January 19, 2021, 6:10 PM HST
* Updated January 20, 5:16 AM
The Hawaiʻi Board of Education will hold a virtual public meeting Thursday, Jan. 21, to hear testimony regarding the proposed teacher layoffs and budget cuts to the Department of Education due to the statewide economic woes caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 100 teachers in Maui County could lose their jobs under the current proposal.
There also will be discussion about how to spend $183 million from the new federal coronavirus aid package passed in December that is earmarked for Hawaiʻi’s K-12 schools.
“The Department is facing insurmountable budget cuts that will devastate Hawaiʻi’s public school system – a nearly $400 million hit to general funds,” Hawaiʻi State Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto said in December.
The budget cuts are projected to eliminate about 1,338 positions – including nearly 800 teachers, librarians and counselors – for the 2021-22 school year. On Friday, the Department of Education (DOE) released a school-by-school chart that shows how each school is expected to be effected.
For the Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui Complex Area, the projected loss of salaried positions among the 20 public schools is 84 teachers, 3 educational officers, 33 instructional positions (such as educational assistants) and 14 non-instructional positions (including custodians and clerks).
ʻĪao Intermediate School’s “Impacts of Budget Reductions” stated: “The consequences of these reductions are larger class sizes, fewer intervention programs and an overall decrease in our capacity to meet students needs. This will negatively impact the safety, learning and success of our students in a time when they are most vulnerable.”
The impact statements of the other schools in the complex area were similar.
For the Hāna-Lahainaluna-Lānaʻi-Molokaʻi Complex Area, the 11 schools are expected to lose about 22 teachers and other positions.
These cuts come at a time when many children in public schools are falling behind due to challenges from nearly a year of online or online/blended learning.
Kishimoto gave snapshots of some of the student’s struggles during the pandemic:
- For the first quarter of this school year, 1 in 10 elementary students received well-below marks in math; and 17 percent were well below in language arts.
- For high school students, 10 to 12 percent received a first quarter failing mark in language arts, match, science and social studies.
- These numbers are higher across the board for economically disadvantaged students, English learners, students with disabilities and vulnerable students.
The lastest round of federal coronavirus aid will bring $183.6 million for Hawaiʻi schools to address the pandemic’s consequences on K-12 schools, with flexibility to address learning loss for at-risk and marginalized students through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF).
But in a virtual press conference Tuesday, Hawai’i State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee said that he is concerned that more teachers could lose their jobs because the Department of Education has proposed spending $53 million of the federal aid on private tutors and another $9.7 million on summer school.
Rosenlee said it “makes absolutely no sense” to hire private tutors at the same time the plan is to layoff professional teachers.
“Tutoring, whether it’s private or public, is just a luxury right now that we cannot afford,” he said. “The most important thing is keeping our qualified teachers and starting school [in person] as soon as itʻs safe. … It’s going to be a hard job. That’s why it’s so important we keep our teacher force and hopefully next year we can go back to face-to-face learning and it will take our teachers to get our students back to the levels they need to be at.”
The proposed tutoring program is for students in grades 5-8 who are 2 or more years behind in English Language Art and math; and for about 25,000 students “to prepare them for the rigors of high school.”
Rosenlee also said in the news conference that in the pandemic stimulus bills, Congress prohibited budget cuts to public education. Language in the bills requires states to fund education at the same proportional rate as the state had in the previous three fiscal years before COVID-19 struck. It also says local education agencies shall continue to pay its employees and contractors during the pandemic “to the greatest extent practicable.”
Colleen Hanabusa, former Hawaiʻi congresswoman and former state Senate President, said in the news conference that Congress put the provisions int he stimulus bills “to ensure that the next generation of leaders, the keiki, the students do not fall behind.”
Those provisions also were in the first CARES Act that was passed in March.
The Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association is urging Gov. David Ige to make changes to the budget and modify the uses of stimulus funding to meet the requirements of the federal aid.
The Jan. 21 Board of Education virtual meetings (click on the meeting for how to watch and to access materials/agendas):