Friday, February 9, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, February 9, 2001

Island Voices
DOE 'fat' could help fund pay increases

By Rep. William Stonebraker
R-15th District (Kalama Valley, Portlock)

Our teachers, while working in a difficult economic environment, are some of the lowest paid in the country.

I recently reviewed State Auditor Marion Higa's detailed report on salary disparities, a "Comparison Study of the Salary Structure of Educational Officers in the Department of Education."

It revealed a disturbing picture of the Department of Education's educational officers. Consider the following job titles nestled above the average Hawaii public-school teacher: public relations specialists; budget specialists; capital improvement project planners; institutional analysts; personal regional officers; sex-equity specialists; facilities planners; fiscal specialists; evaluation specialists; data-processing specialists; procurement and distribution specialists; and finally, management analysis and compliance specialists.

There are close to 800 educational officers, all earning substantially more than the average schoolteacher does, spread throughout Hawaii's 256 public schools.

The audit also said the DOE's "classification and compensation system is inequitable." In other words, the department is paying administration specialists up to 34 percent more than what others in the state system or private sector are getting. This is unfair.

The problem exists, in part, because educational officers are able to maintain salary regardless of job title. One can give up one's position for an easier workload and stay at the same pay scale.

So while teacher retention is nearly impossible due to skinny salaries, we have provided a plump incentive program, as outlined in the auditor's report, to enter and stay in the upper strata of the DOE. Incentives are still great to move upward and seek opportunities outside the classroom in administration. But what could be more important for an elementary school student than an institutional analyst or a sex-equity specialist? How about an education?

What we value is intrinsically related to what we spend our money on.

Right now, the teachers are at the table for a much-needed and well-deserved pay raise, but the question will be asked, "Where do we get the money?"

You can find it in the deep pockets of the administration.

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