20 Reasons to vote yes on the school funding constitutional amendment


Hawaii spends the lowest percentage of county and state funds on education in the country, just 27 percent, far below the U.S. average of 37 percent.

• When adjusted for cost of living, Hawaii ranks 45th in the nation in per pupil spending.


• When adjusted for cost of living, Hawaii teachers are the lowest paid in the nation.

Hawaii has a teacher shortage of more than 1,000 teachers, a figure which increased by 10 percent in the 2017–2018 school year.

Hawaii is ranked as the 49th worst state in which to be a teacher.


Hawaii ranks 41st in the nation in 8th grade reading scores on the NAEP.

Hawaii is 47th in the nation in completion rates for 9th grade to college.

• Native Hawaiian public school students are more likely to have inexperienced, unqualified and out-of-field teachers. (Page 30)

Only 14 percent of Native Hawaiian learners complete post-secondary education/training. (Page 13)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the constitutional amendment?

This legislative session, the Legislature voted unanimously in the House and 23-1 in the Senate to allow the people of Hawaii to vote Nov.6, on the General Election ballot, whether they want to increase funding for public education by creating a surcharge on investment real property.

What will the question on the ballot be?

“Shall the Legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”

What is the process for the constitutional amendment?

On Nov. 6, registered voters will vote on our proposed constitutional amendment to create an additional source of revenue to fund our public schools. The measure needs a majority of YES votes to pass. It is important to remember that a BLANK vote counts as a NO vote. So please, vote YES, and do NOT leave it blank! If a majority of voters passes the constitutional amendment, then during the next legislative session, lawmakers will decide the specifics of the bill through enabling legislation.

The HSTA will continue to advocate for this surcharge to apply to residential investment properties valued at more than $1 million. We will also continue to advocate that the language in the bill ensures that the money will be spent on the needs areas in our public schools that we have identified, “including funding for the recruitment and retention of teachers, public preschools, smaller class sizes, special education programming, career and technical education, art education, music education, Hawaiian studies, Hawaiian language instruction and afterschool programs.”

Who will be taxed?

The intent of HSTA and the legislature is to tax second homes worth more than $1 million. If you own one home, you will not have to pay this surcharge. If you own two homes, and your second home is worth less than $1 million, you will still not have to pay this tax. The intent is only to apply this surcharge to residential investment properties valued at over $1 million.

How much money will be raised?

The specifics will be left to the Legislature. But as the HSTA discussed in the previous legislative session, the intent defined by lawmakers in their conversations with us, which they also wrote in their committee reports during the legislative session, the goal is to raise between $200-$400 million.

Why is this constitutional amendment necessary?

The Hawaii State Constitution currently designates that all property taxes will be collected and used by the counties. To change the current wording in our state Constitution, a constitutional amendment must be voted on by the public to allow a state surcharge to be added on investment real property with proceeds going to our public schools.

Hawaii ranks last in the nation in the percentage of state and local revenue that goes to education, and 45th in the nation in per-pupil expenditure when adjusted for cost of living. This leads to Hawaii teachers having the lowest pay in the nation when adjusted for cost of living, and more than 1,000 positions that are not filled with qualified teachers each school year. This situation is not good for our schools and our students. We need to increase revenue for our public schools. We are the only state in the nation that doesn’t use some part of property taxes to fund its public schools.

Why property taxes?

Hawaii is the only state in the nation that does not use property taxes to fund education and has the lowest property tax rate in the country. Why? More than hundred years ago, wealthy plantation owners owned most of the land in Hawaii and did not want to use their wealth to educate the children of their workers.

A plantation manager in the early 1900s warned, “Public education beyond the fourth grade is not only a waste, it is a menace. We spend to educate them and they will destroy us.” Another plantation manager stated, “Every penny we spend on educating these kids beyond the sixth grade is wasted.” (Fuchs, 1961) By not using property taxes to fund our public schools, Hawaii’s elite of yesteryear discriminated against the poor by permanently keeping Hawaii’s schools underfunded.

Won’t raising property taxes increase the cost of living even for teachers?

Actually, the opposite will occur. Currently 1/3 of all property taxes are paid by non-residents. Last year 50 percent of all homes sold on Maui were sold to non-residents. One out of every 10 homes on Kauai are vacation rentals. It’s simple supply and demand: when so many homes are taken off the market, it drives up costs. In the last 15 years, Hawaii home prices have doubled. If there is not a brake to the speculation in Hawaii’s properties, in 15 years the average home price could be higher than $1.5 million. Anyone who has driven by the new luxury apartments in Kakaako at night and counted the number of lights that are on in them can see that local people are not buying these properties. Corporations and speculators are buying these properties and driving up the cost to the rest of us.

How does the public feel about the constitutional amendment?

According to HSTA’s polling data, 74 percent of people in Hawaii, including 88 percent of Democrats, believe in increasing funding for education.  A majority of poll respondents stated they would support increasing funding for schools by placing a surcharge on investment property.

What would this money be used for?

Our goal is to give our keiki (children) the schools they deserve. That means

  • having a qualified teacher in every classroom
  • not just recruiting new teachers, but retaining our quality teachers lowering class sizes
  • providing our students with special needs services they need
  • making sure we offer robust career and technical education
  • ensuring our schools and teachers have enough supplies
  • assuring that our small and rural schools are adequately funded

Funding is essential for so many aspects of what our schools are supposed to carry out.

How can I help?

A. Teachers: we need your help to educate the public. The good news is we are a union full of teachers. Talk to your friends and family, and educate them on why our schools need funding and unless they own two homes worth more than $1 million, this tax will not impact them. If everyone who is related to a teacher in Hawaii votes yes, we win!

B. Make sure you are registered to vote.

C. WE NEED HELP! Please email info@hsta.org to say you are interested in helping. We need people willing to put up signs, sign wave, write Op-Eds and letters to the editor. Anything you can do will help. This is our chance to finally fully fund education in Hawaii.