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Proposals to address Hawaiʻi's early educator shortage advance at the Legislature

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Sunshine School/Facebook
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Sunshine School
Sunshine School in Kailua

Proposals addressing the state’s early educator shortage are still advancing in the Legislature.

Early childhood advocates rallied outside of the state capitol Tuesday to raise awareness of the state’s shortage of preschool teachers and childcare workers.

Senate Bills 2700 and 2701 would create a workforce registry for early educators and a pilot program to retain and recruit more teachers.

Julie Kalakau, director of Sunshine School in Kailua, says the pandemic has worsened the educator shortage primarily because the average salary doesn’t attract or keep teachers.

"We need more people to be drawn to our field to help care for future generations of children. And without support, we’re not going to be able to sustain it. I already know of a few schools that have closed," Kalakau said. "That’s scary as a director because I work with other directors and you can't hire — finding somebody that meets the requirements — because it’s not like you can just be a nice lady or gentleman that likes kids, you have to have a degree."

"I don’t think people realize that we’re actually professionals, and you have to have a degree, you have to have a certain amount of early childhood credit hours. And so finding that for the pay that we’re able to provide has been extraordinarily challenging," she told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

The House Finance Committee unanimously passed both SB 2700 and 2701 earlier this week. The proposals await a third reading by the state House.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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