A crucial vote for thousands of Hawaii's public school teachers is coming up this week. They'll have a chance to learn more about a tentative contract agreement during statewide meetings that start on Monday.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association said the contract includes pay raises equivalent to a 13.6 percent increase over four years, through step movements, across-the-board hikes and bonuses.
"It helps to add security to our salary system, and it helps to decrease our medical cost because the employer will be picking up a little bit more of it, and it helps to alleviate some of the stress of the evaluation system," said Logan Okita, a teacher at Nimitz Elementary School.
The deal would increase the state's share of health insurance premiums, according to the union. There are 15 health care plans available. The HSTA calculated that while the average teacher's premiums are rising by seven percent, the state would pay an average of nine percent more toward health plans.
"I didn't want to have to go on strike if we didn't need to, so I'm happy that this is going out to the members to take a look at and vote on," said Roy Hannu, a social studies and special education teacher at Mililani High School.
Some members still have concerns about issues including class size and the workload for special education teachers. They will be able to learn more about the deal at 27 informational meetings across the state from Monday through Wednesday.
"I want to be supportive of the union, thinking they did work hard, they tried everything they could, but at the same time don't want to be complacent and say, 'Oh well, that's the way it is," said Desiree Cremer, a dance teacher at Aiea High School.
Teachers will head to polling sites on April 27 to vote. A simple majority is needed to ratify the agreement
"We're confident that when they look at this, they're going to think that it's a good deal for our members," said HSTA president Corey Rosenlee.