HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of teachers marched to the state Capitol building on Monday for a rally to call for better pay and working conditions.
The event was organized by the teachers union, and comes as the organization is pushing a controversial plan that would raise taxes to improve schools and teacher salaries.
"This is what teacher power looks like!" Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, told a large gathered crowd at the state Capitol.
HSTA put the crowd size at 6,000.
Rosenlee told Hawaii News Now after the rally that Hawaii has for too long ignored its education funding problems.
"We need to start funding our schools," he said. "Not investing in our future is a foolish thing to do. Whether it's building falling down, hot classrooms, or not having enough qualified teachers, teachers are the ones on the front lines and they see this everyday."
The gathering is among the biggest ever organized by HSTA, which is looking to secure a new contract for Hawaii's public school teachers.
The march kicked off about 10 a.m. at the Blaisdell Center and progressed to the state Capitol building, where a rally was held. Two lanes of Beretania Street were closed for the march.
HSTA says Hawaii teachers are paid the lowest in the nation, when the the state's high cost of living is factored in. They also say the state spends the least of any state on school improvements.
The union is proposing to establish an added tax on high-cost residential investment properties, a change that would require a constitutional amendment. It also wants a surcharge on hotel rooms, timeshares and vacation rentals.
The union estimates the taxes could net about $500 million a year.
The proposal passed both the House and Senate Education Committees in the past week.
Mobile users: Click here to see a slideshow of the march and rally.