House and Senate Bills Seek to Ensure Funding for Teachers

Two identical bills are being introduced in the Hawaiʻi state legislature that seek to ensure funding for teachers and educational staff. 

House Bill 613 and Senate Bill 270 were introduced by the chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees. The bills would appropriate $104 million in federally allocated funds to offset budget reductions that bill backers say would result in layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts to an estimated 1,700 state school employees due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The bills were introduced in response to Governor David Ige’s proposed budget cuts to the Department of Education, which were reset to 2.5 percent in January due to federal fund availability and more optimistic projections by the Council on Revenues.

Supporters of the bills say lawmakers are unified in their effort to ensure students have adequate educational support when they return to school. 

“These bills are about focusing on our students’ achievements and success to help get them back on track,” said Senator Michelle Kidani, Chair of the Senate Education Committee. “We have seen from schools’ financial plans that personnel cuts include critical staff throughout the school system, from teachers to educational assistants, counselors, cafeteria workers, and janitorial staff.”

“Legislators want to prioritize the use of federal funds to protect our keiki’s future and ensure they can return to schools that are sufficiently staffed,” said Representative Justin Woodson, Chair of the House Education Committee. “By moving these proposals and directing the Department of Education to use federal funds for staffing, we provide more certainty for the funding of our critical educational staff.”

Both the House and Senate Committees on Education are scheduled to hear these bills on Tuesday, Feb. 16 and Wednesday, Feb. 17, respectively.

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