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Hawaii teachers get question, answer session before contract vote

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Jan 19 2012 02:30:28 AM HST
Updated On: Jan 19 2012 02:52:57 AM HST
HONOLULU -

On the fourth floor of the Hawaii Convention Center, thousands of chairs awaited thousands of teachers.

“What could be the worst that could happen if we vote no?” asked one board member at the head of the ballroom.   By 8 p.m., the Q & A session with HSTA leaders was well under way.

Oahu's 9,000 teachers were invited, and so were thousands more who were allowed to watch online in a live stream on the union's website.   Some of the highlights include: 

  • A six-year contract.
  • A five percent pay cut until June 2013, when wages bounce back to 2009 levels.
  • $1,500 extra per year for teachers willing to work in hard-to-staff areas.
  • The state paying some licensing fees for teachers with high evaluations.
  • Pay increases based on both years of service and good performance.

“This has gone on for six months since the state had its last best and final offer. It had a big impact on teachers, because it just dragged on so long and this just gains back the confidence in the association," said HSTA President Will Okabe.

He said negotiations kicked into overdrive recently, when the federal government warned the state that having no contract could jeopardize the state's multimillion-dollar Race to the Top grant.   It was a warning that inspired the Department of Education to offer its support.   “Assuming the ratification of the contract that we'll be able to move forward rapidly on a number of things that will support improving teaching and supporting teachers in the classroom,” said DOE Chair Katherine Matayoshi.   In Tuesday’s meeting, HSTA board members who voted unanimously for the new contract warned members what might happen if those members vote no.   Teachers, listened, questioned, and mulled over their next move.   “We should be partners in this. This is the closest we've been able to get in some very key issues,” said another board member.

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