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Ige says lawmakers had ‘no authority’ to approve $2,200 bonuses for teachers

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 10:00 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - On the last day of the state legislative session, lawmakers rewarded teachers for their efforts during the pandemic.

“One of the things we did do was to include $2,200 for every public school teacher, charter school, full-time and half-time, which would amount to almost $30 million,” said state Sen. Michelle Kidani, speaking at a news conference on April 29 about the wrap-up of the session.

But on Monday, Gov. David Ige told Hawaii News Now the bonus needs to be negotiated between the administration and the union ― not the Legislature.

“Certainly they (state lawmakers) don’t have the authority to give that money to teachers,” he said.

“We are negotiating a contract. If we arrive at some agreement that includes a bonus, then we’ll pay the bonus, but it has to be part of the contract.”

HGEA, the union representing principals and other school staff, called the disregard of collective bargaining unconscionable.

“My immediate reaction about a bonus being given was outrage because it was patently unfair to reward one group of employees and not looking at our others,” said Randy Perreira, executive director of HGEA, which represents principals, assistant principals and other school employees.

But Kidani, the state Senate Education chair, says the payment will stabilize the teacher workforce, which has been in upheaval during the pandemic.

“I know people are calling it a bonus. It’s not a bonus,” said Kidani.

“It’s federally-approved use of funds as an educator workforce stabilization program,” she added.

HSTA says other school districts are issuing the payments.

Teachers union President Corey Rosenlee says returning to full in-person learning in the fall is possible and extra pay for teachers is part of the equation.

“Hawaii for years has had a teacher shortage of over 1,000 teachers and if we want to be bring kids back to class, we need to make sure everyone one of those kids has a teacher,” said Rosenlee.

Meanwhile, Board of Education Chair Catherine Payne says last-minute spending of federal money for the teacher bonuses and other education items is questionable.

“The Legislature did all this behind closed doors without any input,” said Payne.

Ige won’t say what he’ll do about the teacher bonus. He could veto the budget or just withhold the money.

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