Fair wages enough for HSTA contract OK
Public school teachers have ratified a contract that requires random drug tests.
THOUGH a drug-testing provision drew objections, Hawaii's public school teachers ratified a new contract
largely because it contains fair wage increases and other financial benefits.
One of them, an annual $3,000 differential, could attract licensed teachers to rural schools often short of experienced educators. Another, a 25 percent pay supplement, would properly reward teachers who guide students in out-of-classroom activities that broaden exposure to the arts, which have been de-emphasized due to No Child Left Behind demands.
Some teachers were offended by the random drug-testing clause. The contract was approved by 61 percent of teachers who voted, a steep drop from two years ago when 93 percent voted to ratify. About 38 percent voted to reject the contract while nearly 5,000 other members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association didn't bother to cast ballots.
The provision was a non-negotiable item submitted by the Lingle administration late in the contract talks, evidently a reaction to six recent drug-related arrests of Department of Education employees. Considering the DOE has more than 13,000 employees, the six arrests might not indicate a widespread problem. However, other public workers are subject to drug tests upon hiring and during their employment.
HSTA officials say the provision could hamper teacher recruitment, but pay and benefits likely would be the primary factors for someone considering a job.
Some teachers who voted for ratification say they aren't worried about drug tests, which indicates they don't use illegal drugs. Nonetheless, forgoing a civil right often isn't an issue until one is confronted with its loss, and education officials should make sure tests are conducted fairly.
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