Hawaii teachers ratify rejected contract

Wil Okabe
Wil Okabe

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's public school teachers union announced Wednesday that two-thirds of teachers have ratified the contract that was rejected in January.

In a letter to union members, the president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Wil Okabe said that 66 percent voted to approve the contract while 34 percent voted no.

"This vote is a testament that democracy is as strong as ever among the HSTA membership. Mahalo to all members for your participation and solidarity, said Okabe"

Governor Abercrombie has said that a re-vote on the contract had no legal standing. "According to the Attorney General the agreement which was rejected in January 2012 has no legal standing. In addition, in February, HSTA submitted a comprehensive proposal, which has not been withdrawn," said Abercrombie.

Okabe said he will ask the Governor to reconsider, "Just as teachers reconsidered their position, we are now asking the Governor to reconsider his. Our students deserve nothing less."

Late Wednesday afternoon Governor Abercrombie released the following statement:

"Now is a good time for HSTA to submit a new proposal for discussion. When HSTA decides to return to collective bargaining, the vote results will be seriously considered.  Our team remains prepared to negotiate.

"The end of the school year is fast approaching. We appreciate the work that our teachers have done for student achievement and we look forward to resolving this labor dispute with their union."

The following are letters sent to Governor Abercrombie and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Dear Governor Abercrombie,

I am pleased to inform you that two-thirds of teachers (66% Yes, 34% No) have ratified the January agreement. We believe our ratification vote validates the work both we and the state did to reach this agreement in January to align Hawaii with President Obama's Race to the Top reform requirements.

We have also informed U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan that this agreement has been ratified. This is a positive step for Hawaii, our students and teachers, as it signals our commitment in securing the $75 million Race to the Top grant, as we move forward together.

We recognize that you have stated publicly that you do not consider the agreement we reached to be valid any longer. However, just as we asked teachers to reconsider their position, we now ask you to reconsider yours. Hawaii's children deserve nothing less from all of us.

*** Content of letter to Arne Duncan:

Dear Secretary Duncan,

The Hawaii State Teachers Association is pleased to inform you that teachers have voted to ratify the contract settlement negotiated with Governor Neil Abercrombie's administration.

Aspects of the agreement related to teacher evaluation and our failure to adequately explain these details led to an earlier rejection. As a result, Hawaii's Race to the Top status was placed at high risk.

We are deeply concerned about what the potential loss of $75 million would mean for our schools, our students, and our state. As a result, we decided to conduct the largest information campaign among teachers in our union's history with a focus on the Race to the Top teacher evaluations.

Despite Governor Abercrombie's comments that he no longer considers his January settlement proposal valid, we believe our ratification vote validates the work both we and the state did to reach this agreement in January to align Hawaii with President Obama's Race to the Top reform requirements.

We appreciate your department's willingness to give us the extra time we needed to reach this positive outcome.

In a world too often governed by impatience and suspicion, your patience and clarity allowed Hawaii's teachers the time they needed to reach the right conclusion.

We will have more on this story tonight on Hawaii News Now beginning at 5 p.m.

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