In high school, my favorite teacher was my Geometry teacher, Mr. Young. He was a passionate, engaging and energetic educator who cared for his students and wanted them to succeed. One night I ran into him at a drugstore. He was stocking the shelves. This is a gross injustice. No teacher should have to work more than one job to take care of their kids after taking care of ours.
Teachers continuously put in non-paid time outside of the classroom to grade papers, create lesson plans, and plan field trips. They also graciously and unfairly use their own resources to purchase the supplies our students require to flourish academically.
Our teachers deserve better from our education system and so do our students.
This is my plan for education reform:
Create an adequacy study on all our schools to determine how we reappropriate money spent on education.
Raise taxes on unoccupied investment properties over two million dollars that go directly towards teacher pay.
Provide proper training to our special education teachers to certify them to work with students with autism and special needs.
Update our school infrastructure, so students have a decent learning environment.
Supplying our teachers with the necessary supplies
For us to begin the critical work of improving our schools, we need to create an adequacy study on all our schools to determine how we reappropriate money spent on education. An adequacy study is data-driven and will provide us with an in-depth and detailed look at how to best spend resources between schools in order to provide the best education possible to all of Hawaii’s Keiki. The adequacy study would allow us to determine whether a school needs more teachers, more coaches, fewer administrators, etc. It gives us a look at whether we can move administrators from one school because they have an abundance of them to another because there is a need for them. It will provide a blueprint for how and where to best utilize our valuable DOE employees.
A proper adequacy study will cost $200,000 based on the estimate provided by Picus Odden & Associates. Many states and municipalities have already conducted their adequacy studies and have seen a corresponding rise in student performance.
The concern that most people have is that even with the adequacy study, teachers are still living close to poverty. This is why I support raising taxes on unoccupied investment properties over a certain amount to go directly towards teacher pay. I repeat - no teacher should have to work a second job to get by. Students often see the day portion of teaching, but they rarely see that a teacher spends late nights and early mornings preparing for each day. Their hours are long and their work is critical. This is why I am passionate about lifting up our teachers.
In 2018, the State Supreme Court struck down a ballot question that would give the state legislature the right to raise real property taxes on certain properties to fund education. This meant that it was back to the drawing board. Like many, I too had concerns with the wording on the ballot, wherein it did not directly fund teacher salaries.
According to the Learning Policy Institute, Hawaii is first when it comes to teacher turnover rates. This means our classrooms sizes grow larger, leaving fewer direct student interactions with teachers. We cannot allow our schools to become comparable to college lecture halls where students are just a number instead of a name. For us to keep teachers, we must figure out a way to increase their salaries. I believe that if the funding went directly towards teacher pay, the public would have an easier time supporting a constitutional amendment to fund educator’s salaries.
Unlike most teachers who are given summers off to prepare for the next school year, special education teachers stay year-round. In order for us to have the best special education teachers and provide a quality education for our students with special needs, we must provide proper training to our special education teacher to certify them to work with students with autism and special needs. Our special education teachers are not necessarily ill-prepared to become special education teachers, but they lack the experience compared to some of our tenured teachers. To solve this problem, we need to provide extra training and one on one experience, to set our teachers and our students up for success.
Our schools often advocate for capital improvement projects going towards football fields and locker rooms, which is necessary upkeep. However, we need to update our school infrastructure, so students have a comfortable, safe learning environment. We are fortunate to live in a state where the weather is near perfect year-round. We don’t worry about tornados, massive earthquakes, or devastating hurricanes, but many of our school buildings are crumbling, and it provides an unsafe and unhealthy environment for our students that is inhospitable to learning.
When it comes to our infrastructure, it does not stop at our aging buildings. I also support cooling our schools. Hawaii is generally hot, and speaking as a product of Hawaii public schools, I can personally attest to the fact that the lack of cool air had a toll on my peers’ and my education growing up. Research continues to show that students perform better when they are in cooler temperatures. This is why it is critical to move forward with the plan to air-condition our schools.
Finally, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), teachers can only deduct up to $250 in school supplies annually off their final income in taxes. That is just not good enough to compensate for the learning resources provided directly from teachers’ pockets each year. Our state should be properly supplying our teachers with the necessary supplies that students need to succeed academically. This financial burden should not fall on our teachers.
These are just some of the ways I believe education can be reformed. Growing up, my parents always impressed me with how education was the most important thing I should be focusing on. My parents didn’t believe they had the best education, and they wanted the best for their kids. I went to public school, and I had the opportunity to go to college.
I want every child in Hawaii to have access to a quality education.
I want every teacher to feel like their work is appreciated and that they are valued.
I want our education system to be admired around the country.