HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "Unacceptable."
That's what the teachers union is calling the state's proposed contract offer for the next two years.
According to the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the state has proposed a 1 percent lump sum payment in each of the next two years, which amounts to $550 more for a teacher earning $56,000.
"It's unacceptable!" said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee. "After taxes and the amount that's going to be increased for health care for many of our teachers, teachers will actually see a decrease in their take home pay."
Gov. David Ige's negotiating team made the offer after four negotiating sessions with the teachers' union, Rosenlee said.
Former HSTA executive director Joan Husted, who worked on 15 contracts during her tenure with the union, said she's not surprised by Ige's offer but said it could be misinterpreted.
"That's one of the things you have to be very careful of is when you bargain you're not sending a message you didn't intend to send. And I suspect the governor didn't mean to insult teachers," she said.
Meanwhile, reaction on the teachers' union Facebook page shows that some do feel insulted.
"I am livid!," wrote Mitzi Higa.
Barry Borell wrote, "The state has to offer us something we can live on."
"Obviously, we are not valued as professionals," wrote Amber Schreiber.
In a written statement, Ige declined to comment on the proposal.
"The spirit and intent of the collective bargaining law is that contract negotiations are between the employer and union representatives," the governor said. "Therefore, out of respect for this long-standing process, we will not be negotiating in the media. My team is committed to negotiating in good faith for all the state's public employees."
Rosenlee said better pay is a must to attract and retain qualified teachers.
"We're not asking to be the best-paid teachers in the nation. We're just asking to be paid average," he said.
He believes beginning teachers need a $4,000 pay increase, mid-career teachers a $15,000 to $25,000 raise, and top level teachers a salary bump of $10,000 to $15,000 a year.
But it goes beyond money.
"We're trying to make sure that we give special education teachers more time to be able to work with out students. We're making sure that we're trying to lower class sizes, we're trying to empower teachers," Rosenlee said.
Under HSTA's present contract, which expires in June, teachers received annual raises of at least 3 percent plus a one-time $2,000 bonus.