Hawaii's public school teachers are asking tough questions at informational meetings about their new contract proposal. The first Oahu sessions started on Monday at Pearl City High School, Mililani High School and Castle High School.
Dozens of teachers from different campuses showed up at Pearl City High's cafeteria looking for answers about issues including salaries, evaluations and health insurance premiums.
"I feel like I need to know more. I'm a new teacher. It's my second year of teaching and I wanted to know what are the changes," said Jennifer Galam, a 4th grade teacher at August Ahrens Elementary School.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association said the deal includes pay raises equivalent to a 13.6 percent increase over four years through step movements and across the board hikes. According to the union, a first-year teacher currently earning $46,601 will be paid $53,177 at the end of the contract. A senior teacher with more than 30 years of experience who is receiving $85,488 now will have their salary jump to nearly $91,950 after four years.
"I'm on the verge of retiring soon, so I'm looking forward to my high three, so salary is a big issue for me and this settlement seems pretty good," said Kathy Arakaki, tech coordinator at Pearl City High School.
But some teachers were frustrated that proposed improvements to class sizes and special education workloads were left out of the deal.
"I'm disappointed that they didn't address special ed issues and hopefully, that will get addressed through other means over the course of the year," said Rebecca Hadley-Schlosser, a special education teacher at Maili Elementary School.
The union said it had to compromise on some points, but the agreement is still a step in the right direction.
"The question was, is it worth striking over or could we accept the rest of the contract which we feel is really good and we can continue to fight for those things in the legislature or board of education?" explained HSTA president Corey Rosenlee.
The price tag for the settlement is $115.4 million, including salary raises and step increases, according to the HSTA.
The ratification vote is being held on Thursday because of a legislative deadline to fund the deal.