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Hawaii Reaches Out to the Mainland for Help With Teacher Shortages

Hawaii is seeking teachers from the continental United States to deal with a rising teacher shortage, especially in its most rural schools and in content areas like math and science, according to the Associated Press.

Teams from the Hawaii Department of Education are making recruiting trips to cities like Portland and Chicago in an attempt to attract teachers to the state, where 16 percent of schools are rural. The state has one of the highest mobility rates for rural students and nearly 8 percent of rural adults are unemployed, one of the highest rates in the country. In recent years, the state has offered up to $6,000 in relocation bonuses for special education teachers to work in "hard-to-staff" schools.

Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, told AP that Hawaii has one of the highest teacher turnover rates, especially among teachers who come from the mainland. "They say, 'I can't live here' and they leave and we go back and recruit, and this cycle just continually happens," said Rosenlee.

Teacher shortages have plagued rural states and districts for years. In rural Alaska, districts have invested as much as $85,000 in a single year to fly recruiters to other states to lure teachers. In Colorado, some rural districts have recruited international candidates for open positions or have offered alternative licenses to community members to teach specific content areas. In West Virginia and South Carolina, rural communities have built teacher housing as an incentive for new teachers and to retain current teachers.

Earlier this year, my colleague Stephen Sawchuk reported on federal data that show how common it is for states to recruit teachers who have been prepared in other states. Alaska and Hawaii both recruit half or more than half of all teachers from other states, as well as several other states including Virginia, Oklahoma, and Nevada.

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