No ‘threats’ on drug tests
Gov. Lingle weighs in on the number of teachers to be checked
Negotiators for the Department of Education and Hawaii State Teachers Association continue working out details of a random drug-testing program while waiting to see whether the delay in implementation will hold up pay raises for more than 13,000 teachers.
The random drug-testing program, called for as part of a two-year, $120 million contract ratified by the union last year, was supposed to be in place by Monday.
Gov. Linda Lingle said she sees no reason why the program can't be in place within the next week, but she stopped short of saying she would delay the 4 percent pay raises scheduled to kick in yesterday, the start date for the new contract.
"I don't want to make any threats. I don't want to set any time lines," Lingle said yesterday. "Clearly, they have violated the agreement by not adopting the program by June 30.
"They need to work as hard as it takes -- day and night -- to get this done."
Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Ikeda said talks between the department and the union are continuing in good faith, but did not know when a deal might be struck.
"The department is working out some figures to see if there's some way we can scale down costs," Ikeda said. "We've been busy."
Who should pay for the program has been a key issue.
Lingle has argued the Education Department, with a budget exceeding $2 billion a year, could shift funds to cover the costs. The school board unanimously voted in January against funding the drug tests, saying that funds would have to be pulled out of classrooms to cover the program.
Some estimates have placed the cost of the program at more than $500,000 a year, a figure Lingle called "unrealistically" high, because the department appeared to be seeking exorbitant resources for the program, including up to nine new positions and new office space.
The intent is "not to test thousands of people, but to do it in a random way that makes it clear that you might be tested," Lingle said. "When someone knows they might get tested, they're going to a lot less likely to come on a campus inebriated or drugged out."
She said she would consider testing of one out of every 100 teachers each year, for a total of about 120 to 130 teachers, to be a good range. At $35 per test, "it's really a minimal cost," she said.
Ikeda said the conversation with Lingle helped clarify things.
"I'm more interested in how much a scaled-down version would cost, scaled-down meaning not creating a whole new office or department -- a division, actually -- to implement this," Ikeda said. "We're trying to see if we can work it out."
Any shifting of funds to cover the cost of the drug testing would likely have to be approved by the board, she added.