HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Teachers voted to ratify a new contract in overwhelming fashion Thursday.
About 98 percent of HSTA's 8,000 members who cast ballots statewide voted in favor of the new four-year contract.
"We were pleasantly surprised, we did not know going in," said HSTA president Corey Rosenlee. "I think that's a record number, actually, for ratification for HSTA."
Under the new contract, teachers will get a 13.6 percent pay increase over the next four years, better health coverage and more streamlined evaluations.
"Any pay raise is a great thing. Instead of the hundred dollar bonus we were getting, this is definitely a great thing because it matches with the inflation rate," said McKinley High School teacher Natasha Taketa. "So 3.5 percent on average, about, a year, that's really, really encouraging."
"What they first came out with was like a one percent or some bonus. It wasn't even a raise that would grow, just a one-time payout that really after taxes would have been nothing," said Jamie Gomer, a teacher at King Kekaulike High School on Maui.
The agreement was reached over the weekend after eight months of sometimes difficult negotiations. That gave teachers just a few days to look at the contract proposal before voting on it.
"From the very beginning we sent out all the proposals so all of the members could see it. And we wanted to communicate with them so that even though it was rushed in the end, I think they felt part of the process," said Rosenlee.
"Well, money's always the big thing. So we were waiting for the firefighters. That came through, and that kinda opened everything as well," said McKinley High School registrar Osa Tui, who chaired the HSTA's negotiations committee.
"Our goal from the start was to establish a fair and equitable contract that offers professional pay and improves working conditions to attract and retain the best and the brightest into the classrooms to enhance student learning and give our keiki the schools they deserve," said Rosenlee.
The ratification comes a day after the Board of Education narrowed the search for a new superintendent to two finalists.
The approval comes just a day before the state legislature's deadline to approve and fund the contract. The new contract will take effect July 1.