Archive for August, 2013

Pay to live, not just survive

I used teach swimming to kids at the local YMCA in Honolulu and the emphasis was on the little things to get a 3 year old child comfortable in the water, have them blow bubbles, kick a little bit then doggie paddle their way to the front crawl. It took some time over a few weekends, but it was these little steps that helped kids along their way to swimming comfortably and eventually on their own. I even know of some kids you eventually joined swim clubs, became members of water polo teams in high school and in college as well as kids are lifeguards till this day. That’s one way we knew would help them be lifelong swimmers. It was the YMCA’s version of swim to live, not just survive.

I bring this up because of an article I read today in the Honolulu Star Advertiser talking about how the State of Hawaii Board of Education is unable to get enough people to study the art of teaching in the universities and as a result there has never been (in the past 10 years or so) enough qualified teachers available to support the daily educational needs of our keiki(Hawaiian for child or children) in Hawaii. As a result, the Department of Education came up with a plan quite a few years ago to recruit fresh-out-of-college graduates from all over the mainland.

Now here’s the rub, these first year teachers are being offered year end bonuses of $1,500, $3,000 and for some very special teachers it’s a $6,000 bonus for every school year they complete and it’s not working out too well. Of course on a much smaller monetary scale, this sounds strangely similar to how draft picks fresh out of college(maybe didn’t finish college) in the NFL get big signing bonuses for not even playing one down(i.e zero NFL football experience) in the NFL*.

The article also mentions the entry level $33,000 salary for first year teachers in Hawaii. I had my Business English ESL class decipher what it means in real terms of what it would cost to live comfortably in Honolulu, for which we just had a similar discussion the day before. Here’s a quick run-down of our expectations for a first year teacher fresh out of college. I should mention that our class is made of travelling young adults who are at from Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and Brazil and at various stages in their young college education and careers.

Here’s what they came up with on a monthly basis for easy calculation sake. Keeping things real, they broke items down between the realistic needs of men and women, because women are beautiful and men don’t need much to live on aside from constant attention.

· Expectation: Live on their own, but no extravagance

· Apartment: A studio with a hot plate and no oven.

· Taxes: 35% out à$21,450/yr disposable income

· $1,800 to live on per month

· Rent & utilities: $1,000

· Transportation: the bus $60….No car

· Food: $400-500

· Incidentals: $100 maybe for men, $200 at least for women

· Clothing: $200 for women, $50 for men…

· Health insurance: another $300

· Entertainment: maybe $100 a month

· Savings: Good luck!

· Outcome à $2,360 to live + $1,800 salary è $6,720 in the hole every year!

Did the extra $1,000 help, no! How about $3,000? Of course not. Now will the $6,000 help, definitely, but it’s still not enough and it’s only available to a fraction of the majority of public school teachers who actually call Hawaii home. This should bring to mind the question of what’s the best solution(s) now for the keiki of Hawaii?

Since my keiki just started Kindergarten, my wife and I will be putting our support whether monetary or otherwise into her kindergarten class, teacher and the school she’s enrolled. Perhaps the small achievements in a class is all we can do until society as a whole takes real action to fix an educational system built for the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s when we’re living in 2013 where a lot of what’s known as educational pedagogy is irrelevant for what my kids will need in the near future for their economic independence, cultural enlightenment, social competence and personal well-being.

*Unlike the NFL, the Department of Education in the State of Hawaii does not make money even though their budget is almost $2,000,000,000(yes, it’s a billion). And in case you’re wondering, it’s still less spent per student in the State of Hawaii, when compared to the cost of incarceration for the same amount of time.