Some Hawaii teachers say tentative contract deal with state still isn’t enough

Justin Hughey and Nanna Lindberg are both teachers on Maui. They love their jobs  but say it is...
Justin Hughey and Nanna Lindberg are both teachers on Maui. They love their jobs but say it is getting harder to survive on their teacher salaries.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 9:03 PM HST
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KAHULUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Days after the state and teachers’ union reached a tentative agreement on pay raises, some educators plan to vote against ratifying the contract.

Justin Hughey has been a Special Education teacher at King Kamehameha III Elementary School in Lahaina since 2006.

His wife Nanna Lindberg has been a biology teacher at Maui High School since 2015.

They have two children – Jasper, 4, and Oskar, 1 – and both love their jobs, but say it is getting harder to survive on their teacher salaries.

“The very last grocery shopping round before the next paycheck usually goes on our credit card,” said Nanna Lindberg, a biology teacher at Maui High School. “With this new pay increase, we would get maybe $100 each extra. That wouldn’t even cover that last round of groceries.”

On Monday, state education leaders applauded the tentative four-year-deal which includes a 14.5% raise for teachers over the life of the contract – which equates to at least $10,000 more on average.

However, Justin is questioning why the contract was not more generous given the state budget surplus.

“L.A. School District just got a 21% raise over three years, and their average teacher there makes $106,000 a year,” he said. “I love my job. But I spent 10 years serving tables ... just so I could live paycheck to paycheck and my body is kind of breaking down on me because of that.”

According to the National Education Association union, the average public school teacher’s salary in Hawaii is $67,000 a year. The minimum living wage for a family with one child is about $82,000 a year.

HSTA President says Hawaii’s education system is unlike any other state in the nation.

“In those counties, they’re funded by the local counties, it’s not state funded,” said HSTA president Osa Tui, Jr. “So that’s where they get the money, all of Los Angeles pays for Los Angeles education, versus California as a whole state paying for the education. We are unique in that way that our state funds our education system. We’re the only state like that.”

Some teachers are organizing a sign-waving rally encouraging other teachers to vote no ahead of the ratification vote on Wednesday.

Those voting yes fear it may backfire.

“If we aren’t to pass it, then healthcare increases, which are beyond what we’re currently paying,” said Lisa Morrison, Kulanihakoi High School Student Activities Coordinator. “Which would mean that voting no on the contract could actually mean a drop in pay.”

“If it were to fail, for some reason or another, we’d have to go back to the bargaining table, and some of the things that we’ve already been able to agree upon might not be there the second time around,” Tui said.

The rally is outside Maui Waena Intermediate School Wednesday April 25th at 7:00 a.m.

If passed, the new contract would take effect on July 1.

To read the full tentative agreement from HSTA, click here.

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