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Tentative teachers deal reached


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POSTED: Thursday, December 24, 2009

Education officials and leaders of the state's teachers union plan to be busy over the holiday weekend examining language in a tentative agreement that would reduce the number of furlough days for public school students.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Department of Education and Board of Education announced the agreement in principle yesterday.

It's unclear whether the proposal would be agreeable to Gov. Linda Lingle. The administration did not take part in yesterday's meeting.

“;We're unable to comment at this time because we don't know what the tentative agreement between the DOE and HSTA entails,”; said the governor's spokesman, Russell Pang.

;[Preview]  BOE, state strike deal in furlough battle
 

A deal has been struck to end or reduce furlough fridays in the public school system.

Watch ]

 

Last week, it appeared the two sides were at a stalemate, with Lingle saying she felt the teachers union was turning down a viable offer.

The governor has proposed using $50 million from the state's rainy day fund to restore 27 school days from next month through June 2011. The $50 million would pay for about 12 days; the rest would come from converting teacher planning days to classroom time.

The administration came away from last week's talks saying the union wanted to reopen portions of the original contract unrelated to furloughs, adding that the changes would compromise student safety and limit after-school programs.

“;We feel we've just made such a fair offer—one based on the fiscal condition the state finds itself in,”; Lingle said last Friday. “;We think it's very doable and we hope that the Department of Education, the Board of Education and the HSTA reach that conclusion.”;

Use of the rainy day fund would require legislative approval, which could come in a special session before the Jan. 20 start of the regular session.

House Speaker Calvin Say repeated yesterday that he would support a special session only if all sides, including the governor, agreed to the settlement.

“;Until we see what the governor has agreed to, we're not going to go back into special session,”; he said. “;If she testifies against the bill, what then?”;

No details of the agreement were released.

“;Both sides are in the process of gaining approval on the agreement with their leadership, and we will share more information once the agreement is approved,”; HSTA President Wil Okabe said in a statement. “;We believe this is a reasonable solution that returns children to the classroom in a safe environment.”;

Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi said only that the tentative agreement could “;reduce”; the number of furlough days. Ten furlough days remain in this school year, with the next one Jan. 15.

“;The board and the HSTA must now vet the tentative agreement, which would bring us a step closer toward meeting our No. 1 priority to reduce furlough days,”; Toguchi said in a statement. “;Hopefully we will be able to make a formal announcement by next week.”;