Many of the top-notch Hawaii teachers who work with the state’s most struggling students will no longer get the annual bonuses they have long received as a perk for helping turn around underperforming schools.
That’s because a bill that would’ve renewed the incentive program died this past legislative session as a result of a procedural mix-up that derailed about a dozen education-related measures at the last minute. House Bill 2597 sailed through its hearings and was largely seen as a shoo-in, but lawmakers in charge of the state budget failed to approve it in their final deliberations.
“It was a missed opportunity,” said Hawaii Teachers Association Vice President Joan Lewis, who’s also a teacher at Kapolei High School. “We have teachers who’ve dedicated themselves to helping their schools do better, schools that are the most vulnerable and could most benefit from these teachers … that extra support is valuable.”
The Department of Education is frustrated with the change, too. Amy Kunz, the DOE’s acting senior assistant superintendent, wrote in a May 13 letter to board-certified teachers that the department is “extremely disappointed with the outcome.”
Kunz and Lewis said they intend to push hard for the program’s renewal in the next legislative session.
Under the incentive program, teachers with certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards who were working in low-performing schools received the $5,000 bonus each year on top of another annual $5,000 stipend that’s given to all board-certified teachers. (The latter remains in effect.)
National board certification is seen across the country as the most prestigious credential a teacher can have. The process is expensive and rigorous and can take several years to complete; many teachers attempt numerous times before achieving certification.