HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After more than two years of negotiations, the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) has reached an agreement with the state Department of Education over a new employment contract, according to a statement released by the HSTA early Sunday evening.
"I am pleased that after more than two years of negotiating...the [Department of Education] and HSTA have come together on a contract offer that will serve Hawaii's teachers and their students," said HSTA President Wil Okabe.
Under the terms of the new agreement, "Hawaii's public school teachers will see the equivalent of a 3 percent pay increase over and above the restored 5 percent cut this July," according to the statement. Teachers will also see increases of 3 percent and 3.2 percent in subsequent years, along with the restoration of previous health insurance premium percentages.
"I believe that this tentative agreement is the beginning of providing professional salaries that will attract and retain the best and the brightest into Hawaii's classrooms," Okabe said.
The contract, a four year deal that is slated to go into effect July 1, 2013, will run through June 30, 2017, pending approval by HSTA members. In addition to the pay restoration and increases, most teachers will move up one step one on the union's salary schedule during the 2013-2014 school year, according to the agreement.
Beginning July 1, 2015, teacher pay increases will be directly tied to new evaluation ratings.
In a press conference to announce the tentative agreement, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie called the deal "a new foundation for advancing education in Hawaii."
"This is a major breakthrough for our teachers, our students, and the future of our state," said Gov. Abercrombie. "I believe this contract is fair and provides opportunities for pay increases, which are long overdue after years of sacrifice from teachers and other public employees."
Governor Abercrombie also expressed belief that his administration would be able to reconcile the new agreement with the state's budget.
"We concluded a contract that we are convinced we can fund, keeping our budget balanced, and taking into account all of the initiatives that we want to engage in that will carry education forward," Gov. Abercrombie said. "We're confident that the proposals embodied within the contract can be funded."
Okabe credited the efforts of teachers and school communities with helping to make sure a deal was agreed upon.
"I believe that the reason we have a tentative agreement in large part is because of the ongoing pressure teachers put on the Employer to settle the contract in the best interests of the teachers and students," Okabe said.
The teacher's union and the state received approval from the Hawaii Labor Relations Board to go to mediation nearly two weeks ago. The teacher's union represents more than 13,500 teachers who have been operating on an imposed contract after turning down the state's last offer.
"I am hopeful that HSTA members will vote to support the agreement and then we can move on to the business of working collaboratively with all the stakeholders to transform public education in Hawaii that improves student learning and produces real results," said Okabe.
The new contract is supposed to take July 1, in time for the next school year.
Here's a brief timeline of how the contract dispute played out over the years:
Governor Abercrombie imposed a contract with a five percent teacher pay cut back in July of 2011. In January 2012, teachers voted down a proposal that had the blessing of the teachers union board. Then in August, both sides went into federal mediation and broke it off two months later. Mediation resumed again last week.
Back in 2001, a teachers strike lasted for 20 days. HSTA and the state settled after a federal judge threatened to intervene. Schools cut back on field trips and other extra activities to make up for lost classroom time.