By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hawaii's public school teachers were asked to stay away from campuses Thursday and Friday until at least 3 p.m. even though many of them wanted to be in their classrooms preparing for the opening of school Monday.
Thursday and Friday are the first two non-instructional furlough days for teachers as mandated by terms of the "last, best, and final offer" implemented by the state when it was unable to reach a new contract agreement with the Hawaii State Teacher's Association. The Department of Transportation prefers to refer to the furlough days as "directed leave without pay" days.
Under terms of the "last, best, and final offer" teachers who work a 10 month schedule will be required to be away from school for seven none-instructional furlough days. Teachers who work the full 12 months must take nine furlough days.
John Nippolt, who chairs the Art Department at Kalani High School, says the first two furlough days will cost him more than $400 in lost wages. That loss and the 1.5% pay cut mandated by the DOT anger him. But he is furious about the increase in his contribution to pay for health insurance.
"The medical increased 120%," Nippolt told Hawaii News Now.
Nippolt showed Hawaii News Now a few of his pay stubs. The stub dated June 5 showed he paid $87.20 for a comprehensive family plan with HMSA. Nippolt said that was the contribution he made for medical care twice a month. His next pay stub, dated June 20, showed his payment had jumped to $184.34, a payment he still has to make twice a month.
Is Nippolt upset? You bet.
"You don't want to hear what I think. I had to leave my house to go talk to my HSTA rep so my wife wouldn't hear what I was saying. I had to go outside. I had to leave the house," Nippolt said.
"It's not about me. It's about all the teachers especially the ones that have gotten the family insurance," he added.
The medical insurance increases are listed on a state web site.
That site shows a comprehensive family plan with HMSA used to cost a teacher $228 a month. That same plan now costs $477 per month.
"It's regrettable," said Governor Neil Abercrombie.
Abercrombie said the state has been forced to make difficult decisions to balance the budget and avoid the kind of financial trouble plaguing the federal government.
"Yes, everybody is going to see that they are paying more for their healthcare costs because it costs more," he added.
Wil Okabe, HSTA president issued a written statement late Thursday afternoon saying, "What the Governor doesn't understand is that teachers' out-of-pocket increased cost for health care under his imposed contract is far more than the "shared sacrifice" he has asked for from all other public servants. If he would sit at the negotiating table himself instead of relying on misinformation from middlemen, he would see the injustice for himself."
Abercrombie said he is not against returning to the bargaining table, but before that happens the HSTA must produce new proposals to discuss.
"If there's some adjustments or mediation or something like that to take place, I'm always happy to entertain any counter offers or other approaches that people want to take, but we don't have anything. Nothing has come up. So we have to move ahead and we are going to move ahead," Abercrombie said.
"When I was elected I said it would be a new day. We are going to pay our bills. We're going to be straight forward and honest with people about what the real situation is. We all have to put the paddle in the water and pull together. Yes, we're all going to be paying more for health care costs because those costs are exploding. We're going to try and get those costs under control," the governor concluded.