BY WIL OKABE – On December 10, the Hawaii State Teachers Association resumed negotiations with the State. Unfortunately, the third bargaining session was cut short as the State declared its offer expired, since HSTA could not accept the offer in its entirety.
The State’s two year, $49 million economic package, paled in comparison to the over $100 million in wage losses teachers struggled to endure as they helped the State over the past 3 ½ years move towards economic recovery.
Now, as the State is realizing surpluses in excess of $300 million, HSTA is being offered 2% increases for each of the next 2 years while the State has already guaranteed members of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) 3% for each of the next 2 years.
While the State has indicated that all affected government workers would have their salaries restored to 2009 levels, the UHPA members will enjoy a reimbursement of all pay cuts taken during this same time period.
HSTA shared some preliminary results of its teacher poll which indicates that teacher retention is at risk if there are no improvements to teaching conditions and compensation. After sharing this information, HSTA was disappointed that the State withdrew its offer, and said it would reinstate its July 31, 2012 offer, with its updated economic offer.
Part of the State’s offer also required teachers to take a blind leap of faith by agreeing to an evaluation system that has not been fully developed or defined, yet would determine all future compensation and job security.
A major concern has been over the heavy use of student test scores to measure teacher effectiveness. No Child Left Behind has clearly demonstrated that over reliance on student test scores puts undue and unfair pressure on students without providing for a well-rounded education.
HSTA has also questioned whether the DOE has fully planned and budgeted for implementation of all phases of the Effective Educator System. HSTA referred to national reports that caution against rushing into a new system without ensuring that the funding and supports are in place.
The State’s current implementation timeline is to roll out a statewide pilot beginning next school year despite concerns raised throughout the state.
There were many points of agreement in the State’s offer. However, rather than continue working on the tough issues together, the State in an “all or nothing” position, withdrew its proposal requiring the parties to start once again.
The parties have tentatively agreed to resume bargaining in early January.
Wil Okabe is the President of the Hawaii State Teachers Association