HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - UPDATE 9 a.m.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and representatives of both the State of Hawaii and Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) negotiating teams will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. regarding the ratification of a contract agreement for Hawaii's teachers.
Hawaii's public school teachers have overwhelmingly approved a new contract.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association said 95 percent of members who went to the polls statewide Wednesday voted to ratify the tentative settlement with the state.
HSTA President Wil Okabe said 70 percent of the union's 13,500 members voted.
"They wanted to send a really strong message to the state of Hawaii that they wanted a fair and equitable contract, and I believe by this vote, it clearly shows that teachers are ready to go on to the next level, and headed to education transformation," said Okabe. He added that it is the largest approval margin for a contract in the union's 40-year history.
The new four-year contract will take effect July 1, 2013. Teachers will have a five percent pay cut restored and move up one step on the salary schedule during the first year of the pact. All teachers will get a 3.2 percent pay hike during the second year, move up another step on the salary schedule during the third year, and then get another 3.2 percent pay hike during the fourth and final year.
Also, starting July 1, 2015, all pay increase also will be tied to a satisfactory or effective evaluation rating. Teachers rejected a contract offer in January 2012, with many saying that teacher evaluations included in that offer were unclear.
Teachers are more positive this time around. "The really great thing about the current contract with that the teachers now have a seat at the table," said Shannon Kaaa, a teacher at Fern Elementary School. "We are going to have a joint committee, and I think that has really helped reassure a lot of teachers."
Teachers have been working under the state's "last, best and final offer" since rejecting a six-year pact in January 2012. Frustrations mounted during the negotiation process, which went into mediation shortly after the union held a massive rally a month ago that drew thousands of teachers to the State Capitol. "That sent a very strong message that teachers were ready to settle a contract," said Okabe.
"The teachers' ratification of this contract is a positive milestone for public education in Hawaii. We can now move forward as partners in transforming education for the benefit of our students and the entire state," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie, in a written statement. "On behalf of my administration, the Department of Education, and the Board of Education, we extend our sincere appreciation to Hawaii's teachers for their dedication, sacrifices and professionalism in the classroom."