STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
HSTA President Roger Takabayashi, shown here with a stack of report cards, said the new proposed contract will be posted online by Monday morning for teachers to review.
Teachers face drug testing
The union will send a tentative state pact to instructors for an OK
Joe Passantino left his job at a Las Vegas school last year for the promise of better pay working as a teacher in Hawaii.
Under a tentative two-year contract deal between the state and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, teachers would:
» Receive 4 percent raises in each of the next two years.
» Move up one step in the pay scale in the second semester, meaning they would get, on average, an additional 3 percent raise.
» Agree to both random and reasonable-suspicion drug testing.
» Get a 25 percent supplementary pay raise each year if they serve as band directors or drama coaches or in other programs.
Source: Governor's Office and the Hawaii State Teachers Association
But since arriving in the islands, the 26-year-old special-education teacher at Kalakaua Middle School in Kalihi has been struggling from paycheck to paycheck while sharing a home with his girlfriend's family.
"Because of the cost of living and the taxes, we actually take home less," said Passantino, whose girlfriend teaches at Niu Valley Middle School. "It's lucky that we have two incomes, but if I was on my own, I couldn't do it."
Now, the Hawaii State Teachers Association is proposing to raise the salary of Passantino and about 13,000 other teachers by 4 percent in each of the next two years, according to a tentative contract agreement with the state. The contract also would bring teachers one step up in the pay scale in the second semester, giving them an additional 3 percent salary hike.
If they vote to ratify the deal on Thursday, teachers would also be agreeing to random and reasonable-suspicion drug testing -- one of the contract's provisions.
Gov. Linda Lingle said the contract, which would cost the state $119,380,888, "recognizes the dedication and hard work of our teachers" and the impact they have on students' lives.
She said drug testing "will help ensure that schools are safe."
The issue of drug testing in schools has been highlighted by six drug-related arrests of Department of Education employees in the past seven months. A bill before the Legislature would subject all public school employees who work close to children to drug testing if there is reasonable suspicion they are intoxicated.
According to the proposed contract, the union and the Board of Education "shall establish a reasonable suspicion and random Drug and Alcohol Testing procedures" for Bargaining Unit 5 employees, which includes all teachers.
Officials declined to say how the testing would be done, but the contract says "principals will not select teachers for random drug testing, nor will they or the DOE administer or read the results of the testing." Instead, an independent, certified laboratory would be hired to do the testing, it said.
A memorandum of agreement between the state, the school board and the Department of Education requires schools to implement drug testing by the end of the next school year, according to the contract.
While she would not mind the tests, Rochelle Shiraki, a 36-year-old language arts teacher, worried it might single out teachers.
"All state employees should be subject to the same standard," said Shiraki, who also works at Kalakaua Middle. "They should be fair to all, not target one specific group because of recent incidents."
To inform teachers about the proposed contract, the union will post the full document online tomorrow afternoon or Monday morning and have it distributed to schools later that day, said HSTA President Roger Takabayashi.
The average teacher salary in Hawaii for the 2004-05 school year was $47,833, an increase of 5.2 percent from the previous year, according to the American Federation of Teachers. The national teachers union ranked Hawaii 15th in the nation among average teacher pay. It said the state's $35,816 average starting salary for a teacher ranked eighth nationally.
Lawmakers are predicting no problem funding the proposed contract.
"This comes well within the costs of what we had set aside in our financial plan," said state Sen. Rosalyn Baker, chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee.
House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro said legislators expected teachers to be offered raises similar to what was proposed to employees with the Hawaii Government Employees Association. Those workers will get pay raises of 4 percent in the next two years, according to a collective-bargaining agreement that will cost the state and counties an extra $183.2 million.
Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho) hopes teachers can ratify their contract soon to give lawmakers more time to consider how it will affect other issues, including pending contracts for United Public Workers and nurses as well as other legislation.
The current teacher contract expires June 30.