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Thursday, April 13, 2000


Legislature 2000

Gov, union
spar over teacher

By Crystal Kua


Gov. Ben Cayetano is not wavering from his position that teacher accountability is not something that should be negotiated in collective bargaining.

"I think it would be good to keep accountability out of collective bargaining," the governor said yesterday. "I can't think of any business or any entity in which management has to negotiate accountability with their employees."

A bill that sets up the framework of an educational accountability system heads into a legislative conference committee.

Cayetano also said teachers shouldn't fear accountability.

"Our teachers are generally good teachers," Cayetano said. "The good ones got nothing to worry about and those who are not up to speed, the (school) superintendent's proposal has all kinds of measures in there to help them, but the ones who cannot perform need to get out of the system and find another job."

The teachers union, however, said teachers support accountability and quality teaching and that the only thing they fear is the effects of this bill.

"We just want to make sure teachers' rights can't be abrogated on a whim. That's what this bill will allow," spokeswoman Danielle Lum said.

Lum also said accountability language has been successful bargained at the negotiating table in Seattle, Cincinnati and Rochester, N.Y.

"They set up a system to identify and get help for, improve or remove struggling teachers," Lum said. "We don't want subpar teachers like the next guy."

An accountability system of rewards, sanctions and assistance is an important component of state Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu's plan to reform public education in Hawaii. Accountability, coupled with the setting of rigorous academic standards and the assessment of how well those standards are being met, would be geared toward improving student achievement.

The bill would enable the Department of Education to go ahead with setting up such an accountability system. The most controversial section of the bill would exempt the provisions of that bill from collective bargaining.

The main differences regarding the bill heading into conference committee is that the Senate wants the exemption to stay in place for three years while the House doesn't have a time limit.

Cayetano said he will wait to see what comes out of committee before commenting on whether he would support any compromise. "I have to see the entire product and maybe there are other ways to accomplish what the superintendent wants to accomplish."

Without accountability, all the money in the world won't solve the problems of the public school system, he said.

Lum said teachers favor accountability for things they can control and not for issues which they can't control, such as a lack of textbooks, large class size and deteriorating classrooms.

The involvement of parents in the lives of their children is also something teachers have no control over.

"Without parents in the whole mix, the chances are slim that a child will succeed academically."

But Cayetano said that parents shouldn't be blamed for all the educational woes.

"The teachers need to, I think, come to grips with the reality that it's not wise to blame parents," he said.

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