It is time to settle the teachers’ contract

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Graphic by Emily Metcalf

By Rep. Bob Mc Dermott – It is long overdue to settle the teachers’ contract.  Making them grovel over less than a 2% increase (when health care costs are factored in), while at the same time proposing an expensive new preschool program is breathtakingly insulting.  This reinforces the belief among teachers that they are not appreciated and they are made the perennial whipping boys for all of the systemic shortcomings that produce public dissatisfaction.   The teachers are by and large dedicated professionals who feel underappreciated and this preschool maneuver by the Governor offers them solid evidence that they are indeed taken for granted.

I have spoken to many teachers and while pay is an issue, another important issue is that they are also suffering from a morale problem.  Aside from antidotal discussion with teachers, one need only look at our absenteeism rate as documented in a report by the Center for American Progress. Written and released in November 2012, it showed about half of Hawaii teachers had more than 10 absences, the second-highest rate in the nation. Or, one could look at our teacher attrition numbers (excluding retirements), we lose about 10% of our full complement each year; the total annual costs associated with teacher turnover in Hawaii alone, excluding retirements, is estimated to be $23,895.228.00 per annum according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. Will Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said “there’s no question” that teacher absences affect student learning.  One can also safely assume that high teacher turnover, particularly at our “at risk” schools, lowers our student achievement outcomes. Both of these are indicators of poor morale and lack of job satisfaction.


Moral is affected by many things.  However, we know what needs to be done.  We must include more professional mentoring time for teachers. Increased planning time is needed because, although we have curriculum standards, we have no standard curriculum. We can reduce their workload by enforcing a hard cap on the number of students per classroom.  Teachers need to have a say in school policy.  And finally, they need to believe that the school (and parents) stands with them, shoulder to shoulder, when dealing with problematic student behavior.

In return, the teachers will gladly accept reasonable evaluation standards.  They want to be measured so that they can improve as professionals and root out the teachers who do not perform.  The loss of good teachers is devastating to the taxpayers, schools, educators, students and the communities that they serve. We need to pay them what they are worth and grant them a 4% raise, and address the morale issues.

The time to settle is now.

Video Link: Rep. Bob McDermott Addresses Teachers’ Contract





  1. Teachers in Hawaii need to be tested every two years or so. Both on 'what they know' and their 'teaching results.' Our state ranks very low on the quality of education our kids receive.

  2. I am a professional mathematics tutor, so I know that when I say this that it is true. While there are probably many good teachers in Hawaii, there are way too many very bad ones. Teachers need to be evaluated and the bad ones need to be removed from the classroom. Any contract that does not do this is not a contract worth signing.

    • Unsure why being a math tutor gives you papal infallacy????? Really?? Why not just "teach" and be part of a real solution??

      • I never claimed papal infallacy. My point was that I have familiarity with some teachers in Hawaii's schools beyond what the typical reader of this article might. Perhaps I over-emphasized that in my comment above. Chuck, do you have familiarity with teachers in Hawaii's schools? You'd be amazed at how unbelievably bad many of them are.

        As for why I don't just teach, I prefer to work with individuals or small groups of students rather than a whole class and also I don't have any teaching credentials, meaning I have never taken any courses to become teacher. I don't feel that I am qualified to be a teacher, although I could certainly become one. Maybe someday.

        I certainly do feel that I am part of the solution. Please visit my website, or my facebook page,

  3. There are probably bad teachers because the good ones can't afford to teach and live in Hawaii. I just hope they get a fair eval system that doesn't include VAM.

  4. After 4-5 years the teacher rolls are decimated by almost 45% due to teachers leaving the profession in Hawaii. You just can't afford to work as a teacher in hawaii unless you live in a box under bridge. Pay them now a salary appropriate with cost of living.

  5. first of all,until we all agree that education is not a right,that no one is entitled to an education,especially a school system that is funded by people forced to pay taxes and then the whole school program is run by a government!and where the teachers are forced to join a union as a condition of employment.the public schools will never improve.we needa Free Market Solution.we need competition and profitability.schools need to make money!and we need transparency.also we need to keep politics out of hawaii solution is for private investors build schools and charge government involvement.hire teachers on a profit sharing program with generous bonuses for good achievements by students,etc. and make sure parents are involved,obviously.these are just for starters.but,absolutely keep the governmnts away from education.please do the research.there are alternatives.

  6. Its amazing that so people think that you can improve the quality of teachers by evaluating them better. Not enough people show up to take these awful paying jobs to begin with. If you want to increase the ability of teachers, you first have to increase the pool of people applying. This is done most efficiently by increasing pay rates.

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