Substitutes are lone critics of attorney general
At his reconfirmation hearing, most testified in favor of a new term
Dozens of substitute teachers used Attorney General Mark Bennett's confirmation hearing yesterday to air their frustrations over a court battle regarding back pay.
The teachers were the only ones to testify against Bennett during a four-hour hearing yesterday before the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee.
The committee will decide on Monday whether to recommend his confirmation or rejection to the full Senate.
Gov. Linda Lingle was among dozens of people supporting Bennett's renomination to the post.
Most of those testifying yesterday praised Bennett's achievements, citing the improved delivery of victim services, establishment of the drug nuisance abatement unit and making conviction histories available online.
"We have the sex-offender registry access right there on our front page because it is one of the things that is most popular for our families," said Kelly Rosati, executive director for the Hawaii Family Forum.
"I found out that there are two registered sex offenders living on my street, one is right behind my house," said parent Gisele Ferreira. "Now I have established safeguards for my child. I'm just here not as a department head or a professional, but as a mom."
If confirmed, Bennett said he will continue to work to improve services for victims, as well as defend the state from lawsuits against programs that benefit Native Hawaiians.
The substitute teachers are upset that the attorney general is appealing a 2005 Circuit Court decision that stated the Department of Education did not follow a 1996 law requiring it to pay substitutes the same daily rate as some full-time employees.
The teachers claim they are owed about $65 million.
"It seems it's going to cost the state only more money the more it drags on," said substitute teacher Jo Jennifer Goldsmith. "The salient point in my eyes is we need qualified people to watch the children."*
Bennett said he understands how important, thankless and difficult it is to be a substitute teacher, because his mother was one.
"We just have a different legal position on the merits of the lawsuit," Bennett said. "We are certainly willing to continue to look at the merits of our position."
In his testimony, Bennett said he is proud of the work done by his staff of 700.
"I think they are among the most caring, dedicated, hardworking employees in government," Bennett said. "And the successes of my department are due to what they have done."
Friday, April 27, 2007
» Public school substitute teacher Jo Jennifer Goldsmith, who supports a claim that the state owes substitute teachers about $65 million in back pay, said, "The salient point in my eyes is we need qualified people to watch the children." She was misquoted in a story on Page A17 Sunday as saying, "We need quality people to watch the children." Also, Goldsmith's letter to the editor in Saturday's Star-Bulletin about substitute teachers' back pay omitted her first name. And an editing error deleted the preposition "for" before the words "27 years," resulting in a grammatical error.