Governor, Union discuss new teachers' contract - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Governor, union praise new teachers' contract

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After two years of bitter negotiations and finger pointing, Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the state teacher's union are now promising to work together.

Teachers on Wednesday voted 95 percent in favor of a new, four-year contract that restores the 5 percent pay cuts that went into effect in 2009 and provides raises of 3 percent or more each year.

"Shakespeare said 'all's well that ends well' and this is not so much an end as it is a beginning," Abercrombie said.

"I believe it's going to be a beginning for an incredible success story."

The 13,500-member union said that the deal will help turn the tide of teachers leaving the profession.

"I think that this salary and the compensation with medical benefits will help to retain and recruit teachers," said HSTA President Will Okabe.

But some say the deal still doesn't go far enough.

"This contract is not going to change whether teachers tomorrow will teach in hot classroom. It's not going to change whether teachers are teaching classes in rooms that are crowded," said Campbell High School teacher Corey Rosenlee.

"This is not going to change wether they can afford being a teacher."

In addition to pay restoration and the annual raises, the deal also restores previously cut health insurance premiums, with a 60-40 split between the state and union.

"I think we are going to transform public education as we know it," said the HSTA's Okabe.

"We want to be the leader not only in Hawaii but throughout the nation."

Rosenlee said he voted for the contract but says that even with the raises, Hawaii teachers are still among the lowest paid in the nation

"My school is probably going to lose 25 to 30 teachers this year. Next year, they will lose 25 to 30 teachers," he said.

"So many of my fellow teachers in order to survive have to work second jobs."

The raises go into effect on July 1, just in time for the next school year. But whether the pay increase are enough to overcome the tensions of the past two years still remains to be seen.

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