State offers teachers
The director of the teachers
union says the pay hike over
two years is "not enough"
The teachers' union is reviewing a new salary offer from the state that would give members a 4.12 percent raise.
Hawaii State Teachers Association Executive Director Joan Husted called the offer made by the state on Thursday "a good-faith effort, but not enough."
Husted and state Chief Negotiator Ted Hong said yesterday that they are both optimistic the two sides will reach agreement by the end of the month, before the Legislature adjourns.
If the raises are not funded by the Legislature this session, teachers won't receive the money until next year.
The state is offering a 1.5 percent increase on Sept. 1 and 2.62 percent more on Oct. 26, Husted said.
That's an improvement from earlier state offers of no raise for the first year and a 1 percent raise for the second year of a two-year contract, Husted said.
The union is asking for a 5 percent raise retroactive for the 2003-2004 school year and another 5 percent for the 2004-05 school year, for a total of 10 percent, Husted said. The HSTA's plan would cost the state about $80 million, she said.
The state's offer will cost the state about $20 million this year and $33 million by 2006-07, Hong said.
The union and the state have been in mediation over the 2003-05 contract for about two weeks.
"The talks have been respectful, courteous and also very intense," Hong said.
Informal discussions between the two sides may be held this week, but formal mediation won't resume until April 26.
Although the current offers are for two-year contracts, Hong said the state might consider a longer contract term, though he wouldn't say yesterday for how many more years.
University of Hawaii faculty just agreed to a six-year contract that will raise salaries about 31 percent. "The parties have agreed that if we have an offer we can pass across, we can do that during next week," Hong said.
He noted that Gov. Linda Lingle's position on labor negotiations is to "propose what is the most we feel could pay these people and sustain it."
"It's not about how much you value teachers or how much you respect the job teachers do," Hong said. "We cannot spend beyond our means. You can only pay what you can afford."
But Hawaii can't afford to keep losing teachers at the rate it has been, especially since local universities provide no more than 400 new teachers each year, Husted said.
About 1,300 teachers a year, or one-tenth of the HSTA membership of 13,000, stop teaching in Hawaii each year, Husted said. The loss includes teacher retirements, moves to the mainland or private Hawaii schools, or leaving the profession. And it means 1,800 unlicensed teachers are teaching in Hawaii's public schools, she said.
When salaries are adjusted for Hawaii's cost of living, public school teacher salaries rank 50th among the states, Husted said.
"We must pay teachers more if we want to improve the quality of education for our children," HSTA President Roger Takabayashi told 300 teachers gathered for the HSTA annual convention at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel yesterday. "Right now, our salaries are so low that hundreds of teachers leave the profession each year. As a result, Hawaii is facing a tremendous teacher shortage."
Chad Nacapuy, 27, is a first-grade teacher at Alvah Scott Elementary in Aiea and said he can't afford to move out of his parents' house on the salary he makes as a beginning teacher.
"I'm not trying to get rich, but I would like one day to own my own place," he said. If the governor approves a raise for teachers, "it would mean a lot to me and to other teachers," he said. "So much is asked of us and so little is given back."