Gov. Ben Cayetano appears to have signaled movement in the state's position in the deadlock over a bonus provision in the contract agreement that ended a three-week strike by public school teachers in April.
State may bend on
By Bruce Dunford
Cayetano said yesterday that the state would be willing to fund bonuses for teachers with advanced or professional degrees for one year, even if the cost goes to $10 million.
He previously insisted the state could only afford $6.7 million, using this year's unanticipated increase in the federal education impact compensation.
However, Cayetano is standing fast on his position that the bonus agreement was only for one year in the two-year contract.
Hawaii State Teachers Association Executive Director Joan Husted said she views the change in the governor's position as a positive sign toward resolving the dispute that has held up the signing of the new contract for 13,000 teachers.
"I think they are trying to find a way to settle it," she said.
The union is firm in its position that the bonuses were to be paid in each year of the two-year contract, but the union's estimated cost is about $12 million or $13 million instead of the $20 million Cayetano and the Department of Education has been saying it would cost, Husted said.
The union does not want to file a lawsuit and has no intention of renegotiating the two-year contract to resolve the issue, she said.
"But all the pay raises and incentives are being held up, and our teachers won't just sit there and take it," Husted said.
Cayetano said the two sides are still talking, and the state intends to show documents that demonstrate the state had expected to only pay bonuses for one year.
The Board of Education also took action that shows that they understood it was a one-year deal because the only money available was the increase in federal impact money, he said.
"Where is the Department of Education going to get the money from? There has been no appropriation for this if you're talking about a two-year, $20 million bonus," Cayetano said. "That money would have to come out of existing programs, and clearly they would have to ask for some kind of emergency appropriation to make it up or cut programs."
Husted said she believes that certain Department of Education officials have exaggerated the costs of the bonuses for political reasons to embarrass Superintendent of Education Paul LeMahieu, who had backed the bonuses.
It is time for the union, the Board of Education, the Department of Education and the state's chief negotiator to all get in the same room and resolve the issue, she said.