Teachers approve contract


POSTED: Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hawaii's public school year will have 17 fewer instructional days under a two-year contract ratified yesterday by the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

The reduction will result in a 7.94 percent pay cut for teachers, as the state attempts to ride out a slow economy and balance its public education budget.

The ratification came with criticism from union President Wil Okabe, who said last night the state should have maintained a commitment to the children and funded their education at appropriate levels with 180 days of instruction.

Okabe said the union is asking state legislators to do the right thing and restore the educational budget.

The union vote was 81.1 percent in favor and 17 percent against, with the remainder in absentee votes yet to be counted, the union said.

About 75 percent of the association's 13,500 members cast ballots yesterday, according to the union.





Teachers on a 10-month class cycle are scheduled for 17 furlough days on Fridays starting next month:


Oct. 23, 30
        Nov. 6, 20
        Dec. 4, 11,18
        Jan. 15, 29
        Feb. 5, 12
        March 5, 12
        April 23, 30
        May 7, 14

        Note: Furloughs are not scheduled for holidays or other paid nonwork days, or for professional development days during which students do not attend class.




Okabe said teachers took the pay cut to help the state, knowing it would mean economic hardship for them and their families.

“;Hawaii's public school teachers said they were willing to do their part, and ... they made good on that promise,”; Okabe said. “;This is going to be a very hard time for our students, our economy and our community.”;

State Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto, who issued a comment prior to the vote, said the proposed contract will allow the schools to maintain class sizes and avoid layoffs. She said Hawaii's public school system is facing unprecedented budget reductions totaling $468 million over the next two years.

Several teachers who voted at the Farrington High School cafeteria said they supported ratifying the new contract and understood the economic challenges facing the state.

“;It's really a give and take, trying to help the economy,”; said Joey Miyashiro, a teacher at Kalakaua Middle School.

Miyashiro said teachers were going to have to “;dig deep”; to find a way to help the students.

Fern Elementary School teacher Nancy Beerman said she felt sympathy for the students who have fewer days of instruction.

;[Preview]    Votes Cast For HSTA Ratification

Public school teachers cast their votes to ratify the HSTA's new contract, KITV4's Jodi Leong has details.

Watch ]


“;It's really going to be hard to keep pace,”; she said.

Some teachers said they were happy there were no layoffs but were worried about households where both parents are teachers and the loss is closer to 16 percent.

“;It's a little bittersweet,”; said Robin Hill, a teacher at Kalihi Waena Elementary School. “;The economic impact of it is kind of startling.”;

Hill said she was worried about children being left unsupervised or being put in a situation where older siblings would be watching younger children while their parents are at work.

The contract, retroactive to July 1, calls for members on a 12-month schedule to take 21 furlough days.

Under this proposal, the union and the state have agreed that there will be no layoffs of licensed, tenured teachers for the duration of this contract.

The contract also calls for drug testing of teachers where there is reasonable suspicion of alcohol and drug use.

But the union and state have agreed to postpone talks about imposing random drug tests upon teachers, until the courts make a ruling and provide guidance, the union said.

The contract also raises the length of probationary time for a new teacher to two years from one year, starting in fiscal year 2010-2011.