by: Paul Drewes
(KHNL) - The new teacher' contract split the nearly 13 thousand union members, because it includes drug testing provisions.
The state added the provision into the deal in the wake of several recent arrests involving public school teachers accused of either using or selling drugs.
Many teachers are happy about a pay increase, but unhappy they have to give something up, their rights, to get more money.
And some even feel, this new deal could hurt Hawaii's efforts to bring in new teachers.
After days of voting and counting behind closed doors, the announcement of the teachers contract was made live on KHNL News 8. "61 percent of the vote was yes, so this contract has been ratified." says Joan Husted, the Executive Director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.
About 8,500 teachers voted on the two year contract, the majority of them saying "Yes" to a four percent raise for each year along with supplemental increases in salaries.
That will boost Hawaii's starting teaching salary to the fourth highest in the country.
and could help fill in Hawaii's shortage of teachers, for the next school year 1700 positions need to be filled.
But some feel the drug testing policy could damage recruiting of teachers to Hawaii.
"Our belief is it will hurt it, we don't see a lot of teachers going into school districts that drug test."
Some current teachers also have mixed feeling about having drug testing tied to their raise. "I thought the contract was fair but I was hesitant about the drug testing because I feel the teachers were being singled out." says Farrington High School teacher, Mark Kawahara.
The teachers union has already worked out plans for drug testing of teachers based on reasonable suspicion but more still needs to be worked out on the new drug policy.
"We have til June 30, 2008 to cover all the procedures for random drug testing." adds Husted.