Bill would cap class sizes, raise new teacher pay

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would cap public school class sizes at 20 students and increase the new teacher salary to $55,000 per year.

The measure, filed as Senate Bill 2105, was introduced by Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, Ka‘u. It would take effect in the 2018-19 school year. Currently, new state Department of Education teachers with a bachelor’s degree earn between $35,962 and $50,333, depending on their prior experience and whether they’ve completed a state-approved, teacher certification program.

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Green’s bill cleared a first reading and is one of several dozen education bills introduced during this year’s legislative session.

Other education bills, if they become law, would:

• Require a minimum 30-minute period for students to eat lunch.

• Require the DOE to provide meals to students at public charter schools.

• Appropriate funds to the DOE to create a suicide prevention mobile application with 24-hour per day crisis support services.

• Create a DOE farm-to-school program.

• Establish a composting grant pilot project in public schools.

• Prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression and sexual orientation in any state educational program or activity that receives state funding.

• Increase the general excise and use tax by 0.5 percent for six years to serve as a dedicated funding source for the DOE, along with state programs addressing homelessness.

• Add a nonvoting, public school teacher representative to the state Board of Education.

• Require at least 20 percent of the total general fund per-pupil request be allocated for special education.

• Limit the number of standardized state tests a student takes each year.

• Require the DOE to maintain a list of priority schools in need of classroom cooling and allow those schools to apply for grants for cooling projects.

• Develop a statewide, public computer science curricula.

• Add interior locks to all classroom doors and mandate all schools have emergency management plans that are updated yearly.

• Allow public school students to opt out of dissection, vivisection and other “harmful” animal procedures and participate instead in alternative projects.

• Establish requirements for parents who want to home-school their child.

• Increase the fine to $1,000 for overtaking a school bus on a state highway, if the bus is stopped and its signals are turned on.

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• Allow school principals to close their school due to natural disaster without needing to consult the complex area superintendent first.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.