Public school teachers head back to classroom without contract

Published: Jul. 29, 2012 at 10:53 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 30, 2012 at 3:56 AM HST
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Wil Okabe
Wil Okabe

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The new school year starts on Monday and teachers will be heading back to their classrooms without a new contract. There are currently no negotiations going on between the State and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, but a letter sent by the State to the HSTA could change that.

The President of the HSTA wants his members to stay positive.

"The morale of the teachers is very disappointed at this point, it's about respect and I believe the teachers want to have a contract before we start the school year," said Wil Okabe.

But the school year starts on Monday, at least for most public school teachers, and they're still without a contract. Back in May, teachers voted to accept the same contract they turned down in January even though the governor said that the agreement was no longer valid.

"Since then, the economy has gotten better, the governor has said there's a surplus of about $300-million, so we are very perplexed as to why the agreement cannot be accepted," said Okabe.

A statement from the governor's office says:

"Mr. Okabe is mistaken to characterize the administration's news of good fiscal management as a "surplus." There remain many financial obligations and unfunded liabilities which we are working to get a handle on instead of pretending they're not there." 

According to the state, the Attorney General says an offer terminated by rejection cannot be later revived by a subsequent purported acceptance.

In a letter dated July 25th, the governor's chief negotiator tells HSTA President Wil Okabe:

"The employer and HSTA must resume bargaining in order to reach a new tentative agreement. Nothing precludes the parties from considering the provisions of prior tentative agreements."

That's something Okabe was pleased to hear and says that will be discussed with the board of directors in a meeting this week.

"HSTA is always willing to talk; I believe that the last tentative agreement is a message from our members to look at this situation about how the economy has improved, with the access of $300-million."

Meanwhile, the state is just three months away from being reviewed for its progress in meeting the reform requirements for the $75-million "Race to the Top" grant.

Okabe tells us they've met every measure in regards to the "Race to the Top." The state says they're looking forward to negotiations.

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