End tug-of-war over teacher drug testing
The deadline to implement a program testing public school teachers for substance abuse passed with no plan in place.
The state Department of Education appears to be creating an unnecessary bureaucracy and expense to carry out random drug testing for public school teachers.
The department already conducts testing for bus drivers, physical therapists who work with deaf and blind students and auto mechanics instructors, and while testing teachers could involve larger numbers, the estimated cost of more than $500,000 a year seems excessive.
The program that teachers agreed to as part of their contract last year was supposed to be in place by now -- the deadline was last Monday -- but has been delayed as their union, the department, the Board of Education and the Lingle administration wrangle over procedures and costs, specifically where funds to pay for testing are going to come from.
The board refused to assign money for testing. Gov. Linda Lingle refused to add funding to the education budget. Meanwhile, the Hawaii State Teachers Association has been negotiating the mechanics of the program for the 13,000 teachers.
The department says it needs a new division and up to nine new job positions to implement the program, which explains the cost, but it isn't clear why such an elaborate operation is needed.
The number of teachers to be tested hasn't been made known, but if the department follows the general model of private employers who test 10 to 20 percent of workers at a cost of about $35 each, lab work for 2,600 teachers would come in at $91,000.
In any case, the board, department, union and administration should end this tug-of-war and move ahead with the program.
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