'Race to the Top' teachers approve new contract

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

WAIANAE (HawaiiNewsNow) - By an 80 to 20 percent margin, teachers in schools in the federal Race To The Top program have approved a new contract that will make them work longer, but will pay them more.

Ratification on the agreement was not guaranteed, given the overwhelming rejection in January of the last contract offer covering all teachers. The leadership of the Hawaii State Teachers Association was relieved when the agreement was approved.

The agreement covers some 900 teachers in Waianae and Nanakuli, another 400 or so in the Keaau, Ka'u and Pahoa areas of the Big Island, and 17 teachers at the Hawaii State School for the Deaf and Blind in Kapahulu.

Allowing teachers to vote on the pact was a test of Wil Okabe's leadership as head of the teachers union.

"I gave my word to the teachers in the Race To The Top zones that they would have the opportunity to vote," said Okabe. "In the bylaws, the president can sign off on any supplemental agreement, but I wanted the teachers to vote because it affects them."

The new pact will add another hour a day to four days of a teacher's work week, and add more instructional time over a school year. But at the same time, it will pay an additional 17 percent for teachers in a 10-month school year, and nearly 37 percent for teachers in a 12-month school year.

Some teachers said the agreement sets a precedent, "Because in the past, if we worked outside of our school day, we got a portion of our regular pay, but we didn't get the full amount of what we're worth," said Maili Elementary teacher Juli Patten, who is also a member of the HSTA board.

"This would set the standard so when we go back to the table to bargain, if you intend to give the teacher an opportunity to work a longer extended school day, we would expect the teachers to get compensated for the work that they do," Okabe said.

Deputy School Superintendent Ronn Nozoe released a statement, which said, "This new agreement is a pivotal step in our efforts to ensure that all Hawaii's high school graduates are prepared for college or a career in today's global marketplace."

"It's a big win for the students in extending their learning time, and it's also a win for the teachers to get compensated for the work that they do," Okabe said.

The agreement will take effect with the next school year.

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