Teachers to rally for bill their union doesn't support

Teachers to rally for bill their union doesn't support
Published: Jan. 13, 2013 at 8:55 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2013 at 11:08 PM HST
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Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School teachers stage a "Work to the Rule" protest last November
Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School teachers stage a "Work to the Rule" protest last November

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Teachers who organized the so-called "work to the rule" protests that spread to schools statewide are planning a rally at the State Capitol this week for legislation that the teachers' union says it does not support.

Organizers are pushing for what it calls the Penny for Education Act. "What this does is raise the GET (general excise tax) by one cent per dollar, and what this does is it really tries to solve the major problems of education in Hawaii," said organizer Corey Rosenlee, a teacher at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach.

The proposals are similar to bills in Georgia and one that passed in California.

According to Rosenlee, the money raised by the tax increase would be an investment to improve educational conditions in Hawaii. "Teachers are teaching in hot and crumbling rooms with supplies that they've bought from their own money, and we're the lowest paid in terms of comfort level and cost of living, and that is causing many teachers to leave Hawaii. And that needs to change," he said.

Rosenlee also pointed to the collapse of the Farrington High School auditorium roof as evidence that more funding is needed. "Farrington's auditorium, for years, have been on a list for repairs. And that's just statewide, it's a problem. We need, as a state, to start thinking about what can we do to really truly solve education. And this bill is attempting to solve that problem," he said.

However, the Hawaii State Teachers Association posted on its Facebook page last night, saying "HSTA does not support the rally on the 17th because of the rally's message and intention. HSTA is focused on what is most important at this moment in time and that is winning a fair contract. The 17th rally is centered around a piece of legislation that was not written by HSTA and was not put through the proper channels of review and approval."

"All of our efforts will be, on the 17th, here at HSTA, in trying to resolve some of the issues in regards to teacher evaluation, and trying to make it fair and equitable for our members," said union president Wil Okabe.

The post drew dozens of comments from teachers and others. By Sunday morning, the Facebook post was scaled back a bit: "While HSTA does not support the legislative bill that the 17th rally is focused around, HSTA does not discourage teachers from having their voices heard."

"We encourage teachers to voice out their opinion because that's the democratic process, to be able to express themselves, and we encourage them to continue to do that," said Okabe. "However, as far as HSTA is concerned, we have to go through the protocols necessary by the organization."

Okabe also said while it has shown support for previous "Work to the Rule" rallies, it will be focusing on the contract negotiations on Thursday. Rosenlee said his group also supports the union's efforts. "We all want a fair contract," he said. "HSTA is working really hard to achieve a contract, and our organization is also working really hard in order to ensure revenue to actually be able to get a good contract for teachers."

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