Union: PutForget about $40 million for computers, textbooks and classroom supplies for now -- save the money for teacher pay raises instead.
teachers first in
Make pay raises the sole priority,
the HSTA urges as the
Election laws reviewed
By Crystal Kua
That's the message the Hawaii State Teachers Association sent to lawmakers yesterday as the union continued to push for higher salaries to settle its collective-bargaining agreement with the state.
But it is a message that HSTA President Karen Ginoza said the union is also directing at Gov. Ben Cayetano -- who is offering less than what teachers want -- since some of those items are also priorities in his proposed executive budget sent to the Legislature.
An impasse has been declared in contract talks between the state and the HSTA, with money being the only roadblock remaining.
The HSTA is asking for a 22 percent raise; the governor has offered 9 percent but has indicated that he could go up to 11 percent. A fact-finding panel recommended a 19 percent raise.
The impasse process has entered a 60-day cooling-off period, during which the union can take a strike vote.
The House Education Committee heard three bills yesterday that are part of House Democrats' package of education proposals.
The bills called for setting aside $6 million for classroom supplies, $7 million for textbooks and $27.5 million for computers.
All three measures were passed by the committee with the appropriation amounts in the supplies and textbooks bills reduced to $1 to allow the House Finance Committee to determine the funding.
Rep. Helene Hale (D, Puna) was the only member to vote against the textbooks and supplies bills, siding with the union's reasoning. "It's the teacher that's important."
The governor's education priorities are similar to the House's. He is proposing spending $4.5 million on textbooks and $21.3 million on computers.
Ginoza said the extra money being requested for education proposals like these this year should instead go toward pay raises.
It was a difficult decision for the union to take the position it did on those bills because books, supplies and computers are sorely needed in the classroom, Ginoza said.
But getting qualified teachers in the classroom is the first step toward making sure a student has a quality education, she said, and addressing this issue through a pay increase and settled contract is the union's priority.
"The critical participants in education are the student and the teacher," Ginoza said. "In order to make appropriate use of computers, a qualified teacher must be in the classroom."
Rep. Ken Ito (D, Kaneohe), chairman of the Education Committee, said lawmakers believe that textbooks, computers and classroom supplies are important issues that can be dealt with along with a pay raise.
"We can address the pay raise, and then if there's leftover we can hit these three things," Ito said.
Ginoza's position took some lawmakers off guard.
Rep. Bob McDermott (R, Foster Village) said he was listening to the committee proceedings on television when he heard Ginoza's testimony.
"I about had a coronary," McDermott said. "I don't understand why you would say that we should get the raise instead of textbooks. Can't we do both? Maybe instead of a 22 percent raise, we could give an 18 percent, and then you could get books?"
Ginoza replied, "If that can be done, we'd appreciate it, but the fact is, with the limited pool of money, we have to put a priority on making sure
LegislatorsCall it the Florida syndrome, which is spreading as states from Hawaii to Texas are reviewing their election laws to avoid the meltdown that happened with the Florida presidential ballot recount last November.
look to revise state
Ideas are being offered,
but there is no agreement yet
on how to change the laws
By Richard Borreca
Both the House and Senate are actively interested this year in changing Hawaii's voting laws, although there is no ready agreement on what to change or how to do it.
For instance, Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate are calling for an automatic recount if there is a difference of 1 percent or less in an election return.
Senate Vice President Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae), who led a successful fight two years ago for a recount of votes in a portion of her district, says discussions with voting experts support the need for automatic recounts.
According to the audit done two years ago, both Election Systems & Software -- the firm that provided the vote-counting equipment and software -- and state chief elections officer Dwayne Yoshina said no election is ever perfect, and there can be a margin of error of 1 or 2 percent, Hanabusa said.
The current state law requires a court order after a party successfully shows that the voting was flawed or incorrect.
Hanabusa is joined by Republicans in the state House who want a manual recount of elections with a 1 percent or less difference.
"We are talking about something that is the normal routine in most states," says Rep. Galen Fox (R, Waikiki).
He also wants the voting law changed to require precinct officials to post the vote returns at the precinct after the polls close.
And, noting that the state law now requires the chief official in each precinct to be of the same party as the governor, Fox says politics should be taken out of vote counting.
"It doesn't make any sense," Fox said. "Why (isn't it) the most qualified person? Why the party of the governor?"
House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo) wants a temporary task force to review and recommend changes to all of Hawaii's election laws, including an "automatic recount to ensure the integrity and certainty of the state electoral process."
Both GOP Chairwoman Linda Lingle and her Democratic counterpart, Walter Heen, agreed that an automatic recount would be a good idea.
"Also, we need a definition of exactly what is a vote," Lingle said. "That sounds funny, but after Florida you can see how it goes to the heart of an election."
For instance, she pointed out, if someone makes an X through the oval on a ballot and the tail of the X touches another oval, the machine counts that as two votes and cancels the vote.
"That sort of thing can be critical," Lingle said.
we have a qualified teacher in every classroom."
Hawaii Revised Statutes