State to appeal teachers’ back pay
The court ruling would compensate substitutes $22 million
The state will appeal a Circuit Court ruling that the Department of Education illegally underpaid thousands of Hawaii substitute teachers for years, Attorney General Mark Bennett announced yesterday.
Circuit Court Judge Karen Ahn ruled in December that a 1996 state law required the department to pay substitute teachers the same daily rate as certain full-time teachers, but the department failed to do so.
The amount that the Department of Education owes to the more than 9,000 affected teachers could run as high as $22 million in back pay, the plaintiffs say. But any payout will now be put off by the appeal.
"It would be imprudent to pay a large amount of taxpayer money without a definitive decision by the Supreme Court," Bennett said.
Following Ahn's ruling, the state had considered settling the case with plaintiffs, said Dana Viola, Bennett's special assistant. "But we felt strongly about the state's position," she said.
The state has argued that the substitutes were properly compensated during the period in question, from November 2000 to June 2005.
The 1996 law pegged substitute salaries to those of a certain class of full-time teacher, whose salaries have since risen significantly.
Plaintiffs argued successfully in Circuit Court that the department never honored that rule, and in 2002 changed the classification system to effectively peg substitute pay to a lower-paid category of teacher.
Another lawsuit filed in February claims the department also owes part-time teachers back pay for several years because their pay is supposed to be linked to substitutes' pay.