Monday, July 23, 2001

State and teachers still
at odds over contract

The issue: The Hawaii State Teachers
Association and the state's chief negotiator
have been unable to agree on whether a
bonus provision covers two years or one.

A continuing dispute between the teachers union and the state has created an unsettled atmosphere as students return to classrooms in 45 year-round public schools this week. This is unacceptable. Both the union and Davis Yogi, the state's chief negotiator, appear willing to sever the bonus provision from the contract and settle that matter separately.

If that's what it will take to avoid further disruption of the children's schooling, they should do it.

Nearly three months after the strike that shut down schools for three weeks, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and state negotiators have been unable to resolve their differences over a bonus for teachers with advanced degrees. Was it meant to be paid for one or two years?

The bonus question has held pay increases hostage, forcing teachers back to work without a signed contract. The HSTA has talked about taking the matter to court and has even mentioned the possibility of another strike.

The language in the contract teachers ratified April 24 states: "Teachers who hold professional certificates based on a master's degree or a professional diploma shall receive a 3 percent differential calculated on their current salary each year." The key word is "each." Yogi maintains that wasn't what was agreed to when the strike was settled and cites Rep. Neil Abercrombie, negotiator Charles Toguchi, and Schools Superintendent Paul LaMehieu as witnesses. The HSTA's lead negotiator, Joan Husted, contends that all parties went through the contract "page by page" before it was settled.

Between 6,900 and 7,500 teachers may qualify for the bonus, which could cost the state $20 million if paid for two years. Yogi asserts that a $6-million figure the state used in printed offers to the union during negotiations should have cued HSTA as to the number of years the provision covered. Husted argues that the union had no way of knowing what the cost would be so the figure is meaningless.

This confusion arose because both parties were under tremendous pressure to end the walkout. The public was nearing the end of its patience and a federal judge overseeing the state's special education program threatened to intervene if the strike continued.

With the effects of the strike still rattling the state's economy and the personal finances of the teachers, no one can afford to leave the contract unsigned any longer and educating Hawaii's students cannot be further jeopardized.

Faith-based charity plan
needs more work

The issue: The House has approved
President Bush's faith-based charities
initiative allowing churches that receive
funds to discriminate in hiring practices.

PRESIDENT Bush's faith-based charities initiative has won House approval but should not become law in its present form. Moderate Republicans agreed to support the measure after being promised that problems with job discrimination would be addressed before enactment. This is more than a technicality that can be easily corrected.

The bill approved by the House is a scaled-down version of Bush's proposal, providing far less money for tax deductions to encourage charitable giving. The most controversial element of the bill would allow churches that receive federal funding to violate state and local laws against job discrimination on the basis of religion or sexual preference.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 allowed churches to be exempt, retaining the right to hire people of their own faith. Some churches have affiliated organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Lutheran Angel Network Charities, that hire people outside their faiths and receive government funding. The House bill will allow funding directly to churches and allow them to discriminate.

Having to hire people of other faiths, in addition to homosexuals, would be "an atomic bomb for faith-based organizations," maintained Republican Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin. "Churches should be allowed to compete for federal social-service funds and remain churches while doing so."

That would violate anti-discrimination laws in 12 states and 100 localities. Moderate Republicans joined Democrats in opposing sections of the bill that would allow churches receiving federal funds to hire only people of their faith and to ignore legal protections of gay men and lesbians in hiring practices.

Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., an Oklahoma Republican who cosponsored the measure, assured moderate members of his party that he would "address their concerns" in conference after the Senate approves its version of the bill. The moderates agreed, and the bill passed along party lines, 233 to 198. Hawaii's Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Patsy Mink voted against it.

The language on discrimination was not merely a lapse that went unnoticed and can be amended without opposition. In a key vote, an attempt by Democrats to do just that -- ban employment discrimination under federal, state or local laws by any organization receiving government funds for charitable purposes -- was defeated, 234-195. Senators Akaka and Inouye should insist that a clause forbidding discrimination becomes part of the Senate bill. This legislation should not become law in the absence of such a provision.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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