Thursday, April 19, 2001


Mandie Ho presented a lei to Karen Ginoza yesterday just before
the HSTA official entered the Federal Building for contract talks.
Ho's parents are Litia and Lindsay Ho, a teacher and a counselor,
respectively, at Waianae Elementary School.

HSTA, state
express optimism
on contract

The talks break off at
2 a.m. with the threat of federal
intervention an incentive to settle

Superintendent wants set funding

By Crystal Kua

TALKS BETWEEN THE STATE and teachers union broke off about 2 a.m. today with the state's chief negotiator saying the threat of federal intervention has become an "incentive" in trying to reach a settlement to end the 2-week-old strike by teachers.

"I think we're working very well, the optimism is there," Davis Yogi said.

HSTA logo Negotiators with the state and the Hawaii State Teachers Association met for more than three hours yesterday before taking a dinner break at 4:30 p.m. Bargaining resumed at about 7 p.m. at the federal mediator's office but fatigue won out about seven hours later. The parties were scheduled to return to the table this afternoon.

"Time to go home, rest and I think it's going to be a long night tonight," Yogi said.

"We're going to go back, do a little bit of work and then we'll be back in the afternoon," HSTA chief negotiator Joan Husted said. "We're working on some concepts and that's all the comment we're going to make about it. We're going to be back, that should be a good sign."

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who played an unofficial role in the university professors' settlement, said his role in the teachers' talks was "to be a friend."

"We're just trying to be helpful to everybody," said Abercrombie as he walked to take a dinner break with Charles Toguchi, former chief of staff to Gov. Ben Cayetano and ex-schools superintendent.

"There are wonderful people involved that are trying very hard to make a difference and to get things done as quickly as possible," Abercrombie said.

During the afternoon session, both sides heard from Jeff Portnoy, court-appointed special master in the Felix consent decree, the federal mandate aimed at improving mental health and educational services to special needs students.

"Having the master come and visit us and express his views reinforced the importance of getting back to work or being faced with the consent decree," Yogi said. "I think that is having the parties very concerned and working hard."

Portnoy relayed concerns U.S. District Judge David Ezra had over the strike's impact on the state's efforts to meet deadlines in the consent decree.

HSTA strikers picketed the Federal Building yesterday, site
of contract negotiations between their union and the state.

Ezra has said that if the strike isn't over by the end of this week, he may step in.

Yogi said that motions filed in federal court by the plaintiffs' attorneys over the strike's effect on the consent decree is "some incentive for people to say, 'Hey, it's time to move on.'"

Optimism for a settlement greeted negotiators arriving for talks yesterday.

Eight-year-old Mandie Ho met state schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu with a lei and a smile as he arrived at the Ala Moana entrance to the federal building yesterday.

"Good to meet you," LeMahieu said. "Wanna get back (to school)?

After the Kaleiopuu Elementary School girl nodded her head, LeMahieu told her, "Me, too."

LeMahieu was heading to the office of federal mediator Ken Kawamoto, where he would join the state negotiating team to bargain with the teachers union.

Mandie's mom, Litia Ho, an eighth-grade teacher at Waianae Intermediate School, said she believed the settlement reached between the state and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly is a real boost to getting the teachers contract settled. Litia, Mandie and Litia's husband, Lindsay, a counselor at the same school as his wife, wanted to wish negotiators on both sides well with leis before the teams headed inside, Litia said.

Both husband and wife have been on strike. "We are both hurting," said Litia, wearing an HSTA T-shirt and a green-and-white Cat in the Hat-striped top hat.

wants set funding
for schools

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

Lawmakers will be asked next year to give Hawaii's public school system a set share of state tax revenues as a dedicated revenue source so it doesn't compete with other state programs for funding, Superintendent of Education Paul LeMahieu said yesterday.

"We cannot continue to treat our educational system as though it were just one more department of state government," LeMahieu said. "A lot of bad comes of it, not a lot of good comes of it."

It doesn't necessarily mean the elected Board of Education would be given taxing authority, but that could be considered, he said.

It also would not prevent the Legislature from making special appropriations for additional education programs, he said.

LeMahieu emerged from another round of bargaining talks between the state administration and the Hawaii State Teachers Association expressing frustration at a lack of progress in ending a two-week-old strike by 13,000 public school teachers.

With its own funding source and budget, the Department of Education could negotiate with the teachers union as an advocate for education, unlike Gov. Ben Cayetano, who has to be an advocate for all his departments, LeMahieu said.

"I can think of nothing more basic to the logic of collective bargaining than that you have to be talking to someone who cares whether or not the business runs," he said. "If it's United Airline pilots, you'd better being talking to someone who cares if the planes fly."

"Don't get me wrong. I know that this governor cares about education, but he's also not responsible for the education system," LeMahieu said.

He wondered that the public hasn't been more upset at the lack of effort to get the strike resolved and the children back to classes.

"I'd put both folks in a room and say: 'You don't come out until you settle.'"

In this labor dispute, both sides have been trying to recruit the third party -- the schools, the kids, the parents, the community -- to their side, LeMahieu said. "Unfortunately, when that happens the third party loses its voice. And when that happens, the third party loses its moral stand from which to argue what it ought to be arguing for, which is settlement," he said.

>> HSTA Web site
>> UHPA Web site
>> State Web site
>> Governor's strike Web site
>> DOE Web site

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