Across the nation, teacher turnover is at its highest rate since 2001, which is the first year the U.S. Department of Labor started keeping records.
  In Hawaii, only 50% of teachers hired 5 years ago are still in the classroom.
 
"It totally blew my mind that teachers were in higher demand in Hawaii, I had no idea," said Special Education Teacher Angie Whaley. 

The state is in dire need for special education teachers, which make up half of the annual teacher shortfall.

"Special ed is a severe problem, we are a lawsuit waiting to happen. Teachers and parents are aware we cannot provide the services because we don't have enough qualified teachers to provide the service," said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee.

Whaley came to Hawaii from Alaska, to get away from the cold. 
But even with the state's need for more special ed teachers, the move to Hawaii's classrooms ended up being a costly one for her.

"I took a $25,000 pay cut, per year, to come here and teach," said Whaley.

Pay is the big reason many teachers leave the state, but not the profession. Teachers starting out in the islands make $5,000 less than the national average.

"We've seen a 70% increase in teachers leaving Hawaii to go to the mainland, where they can make $15-30,000 more," added Rosenlee.

Unlike other states across the country, there is no shortage of aspiring teachers here.
Even though overall enrollment is down at the University of Hawaii from its peak in 2011, there are more students heading into the College of Education in 2019 than in the past 2 years.
Many still want to become teachers. Just not in Hawaii.

"We've seen a huge decrease in the amount we hire from local colleges," stated Rosenlee.

High teacher turnover means the Department of Education has to fill more classrooms with substitute teachers and those without state approved teacher education.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa even has a program for those unqualified teachers already at schools to earn their certification while they work. 

"Because of the shortage, we are taking students who have not completed their degrees and sticking them into the classroom. That is the worst thing you can do. If you don't have the experience then you tend to burnout and want to leave," said Rosenlee.

The DOE has a number of initiatives to recruit more teachers, locally, nationally and even internationally. It also has bonuses and stipends available for some new teachers, along with an induction program for all new educators. Which also helps the hundreds who come here from the mainland each year acclimate.

"We are going to make sure we are supporting all beginning teachers, with a comprehensive induction program. It is a three-year program that aims to offer professional development, and support as well," said Keri Shimomoto with the Hawaii Teacher Induction Center.

But without more pay, smaller classes, and more daily support for educators some worry, Hawaii's high teacher turnover rate will keep on going up. 

"You could say we are time bomb waiting to happen but we are already there. There are over 1,000 classrooms on a daily basis without a qualified teacher," added Rosenlee.

There may soon be even more dissatisfaction for Hawaii teachers. Our islands trail Los Angeles in base pay, but teachers there are about to go on strike for more pay, smaller class size and more support services.