How Come So Many Teachers Bail on Hawaii's Public Schools?

Doug Robertson taught in a Waipahu elementary school for six years before realizing that a life with three roommates, a dilapidated pickup truck and nightly ramen dinners wasn't conducive to settling down for the long-term.

Being “punk-rock poor,” as he calls it, was manageable when he was young and single, but that started to change when he met a former special education teacher who became his wife. The couple had their first baby during the 2012-13 school year. Not long after that they did what so many other teachers have done before them: they left Hawaii.

At the Oregon public school where he got hired, his salary is $5,000 more per year than it was in the islands — and it goes a lot further. For one, the family's rent of $650 is just over half what they paid here, $1,150. They even managed to buy a brand-new car. And unlike in Hawaii, Robertson's wife can afford to be a stay-at-home mom.

“Everybody I know who has left Hawaii just can’t afford it anymore,” Robertson said, emphasizing that he and his wife left for that very reason. “It’s not like everything is peaches and cream here, but it’s ridiculous that I’m in a completely different school district with a significantly lower cost of living making significantly more."

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