NANAKULI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - August 5 is normally a payday for educational assistants in Hawaii's public schools. However, some 200 of them in Leeward Oahu schools won't be getting a paycheck this coming August 5. And according to the state, it's because they got that paycheck nearly a year ago.
On August 5 of last year, the Department of Education gave the educational assistants two paychecks. A DOE memo issued in October said the first paycheck was to complete the summer pay for the 2011-2012 school year. The second paycheck was for the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, the one that just ended.
"It was very deceiving, very deceiving," said Raynetta Canady, an educational assistant at Waianae High School. "We were told that this money was a bonus that we were given because we were working 12 days that none of the other E.A.'s were working."
"Two or three months after we find out it's not a bonus check, it's not for professional development," said Nanakuli High and Intermediate School educational assistant Jackie Ku. "It's the 24th check of the school year, of this school year."
The educational assistants are paid on the fifth and 20th of each month, for 24 paychecks a year.
The DOE denies that there was any deception. According to education officials, the educational assistants work in the Nanakuli-Waianae School Complex, which was designated as a Zone of Innovation under the federal Race To the Top program. It meant that there were additional learning time for teachers and educational assistants
The October memo said that if the extended learning time was cut, there would be no paycheck on August 5, 2013. It also said that educational assistants would be responsible for covering payments that are usually deducted from their paychecks, including their medical coverage payments to the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund, or EUTF.
Two DOE memos issued in March said it would not continue the extended learning time. They also reminded the educational assistants that they would have to pay the EUTF on their own if they didn't get an August 5 paycheck.
Many educational assistants said they live paycheck to paycheck and fear they'll lose their medical coverage. "I will lose that benefit without that paycheck for August fifth," said Leona Delos Santos.
The educational assistants said by the time they were told about it, they had already spent the money. "If I knew about it I wouldn't even have taken that check, if I knew about it, because every check is accountable," said Ku.
Another EA said she had appealed to their union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association. "I can't see them (the other EA's) paying all this money, and if they don't pay it, it gets cut," said Dolly Naiwi. "I'm tired of calling and waiting. It's not fair to them."
Naiwi also appealed to Gov. Neil Abercrombie. "If he found money to give the teachers a big contract and all we got was a step movement, then maybe he can find money for this one paycheck and help us out."
A spokeswoman for the HGEA said the union has filed a class grievance on behalf of the educational assistants, and that it couldn't comment further because the matter is pending. A union representative is scheduled to meet with the Leeward EA's Thursday.