‘It helps with our keiki’: Public school teachers urged to approve tentative contract

Governor Josh Green, the teachers’ union and the Department of Education are urging public school teachers to ratify a new four-year contract.
Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 4:53 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 17, 2023 at 5:11 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Governor Josh Green, the teachers’ union and the Department of Education are urging public school teachers to ratify a new four-year contract.

They say the deal will help attract more people to teaching — and keep them in the classroom longer.

The tentative deal was hammered out Friday, after the governor stepped in to help close the last two hang-ups: incentives for experienced teachers and what to do if there is another crisis that shuts down the schools.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Osa Tu, Jr. and DOE Superintendent Keith Hayashi said both sides wanted clarity. Labor and management were in frequent conflict during the pandemic over distance learning policies and when and how to reopen schools safely.

“You can’t just at the drop of a hat move to an online or virtual arena, you need that time,” Tui said. “And if it’s an extended time, we need time to come back. And so that those were so that some of the issues.”

Hayashi agreed, “It was very important for us, that as we if we needed to shift to an alternative mode of learning, that those processes and procedures are in place.”

The details of the proposed contract were rolled out to teachers in an online announcement, followed up by a press conference at the governor’s office to help sell the deal to teachers.

Raises and seniority steps in the four-year deal average out to a 14.5% increase, about $10,000 for an average teacher.

They also emphasized a new classification for veteran teachers, which provides an incentive to continuing training and remaining in the field to about 4,000 eligible teachers.

The pay scale was also lifted at the bottom, raising the salary for a new teacher to $50,000.

“Ultimately, this is going to help with recruitment and retention,” Hayashi said. “And what does that do? It helps with our keiki who are in our classrooms who are going to have highly qualified educators, more now than before.”

Gov. Green said teaching in Hawaii will be more attractive to teachers in other states and especially to young people in Hawaii who may be more willing to consider teaching because it pays a living wage.

“A lot of people have come out and dabbled with becoming teachers for a couple years and then left because it was simply too expensive,” Green said. “A lot of this discussion was more than just teachers in the HSTA, it was actually about cost of living.”

Over four years the raises will cost taxpayers $577 million, but there is still concern some teachers won’t be happy the raises are spread out over four years.

“Teaching is how we elevate society,” Green said. “Wages have to increase, quality of life has to be addressed and I think that’s what done in this contract.”

The union came in asking for higher raises, but slowing tax collections — and the goal of trying to provide tax breaks to low and middle income families and for teachers, led them to tighten the purse strings.

Teachers will vote in person on ratification at sites across the state on Wednesday, April 26.