Hawaii teachers approve new contract

After two years without a contract, public school teachers all across the state came eager and ready to seal a deal. Casting their vote on a new 4-year agreement, and the results were record-breaking.

“I’ve never seen a 95 percent vote in any of our ratifications in the past 40 years,” said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe.

That leaves only 5 percent who said no to the new contract. In all about 9,100 teachers or 70 percent of all members participated.

“I voted for the contract and looking through the contract myself, there is something in it for everyone in this,” said Louise Cayetano, teacher at Fern Elementary.

The contract gives teachers a 3 percent pay raise & pay raises each year after that, their previous 5 percent pay cut will be restored, and they get back a 60-40 health insurance premium split.

“It’s a good deal I offers the 60-40 for medical insurance, that was a big blow to teachers the 50-50 paying half of that and we got it to where it belongs,” said Inga Park-Okuna, teacher at Kalihi Uka Elementary.

HSTA conducted an aggressive outreach campaign to educate teachers on the contract. During past contract votes, teachers turned down deals because they didn’t like the idea that their pay would be tied to their performance.

“We were able to tighten the language for teachers evaluations. We’re going to be at the table,” said Okabe.

The union will now begin forming an advisory committee to work with the Department of Education on creating an evaluation system.

“We need to iron out what is fair for everyone and go into this very cautiously,” said Cayetano.

The new contract will begin July 1st, in time for the next school year. The legislature must first approve funding for the deal.

“The legislature is committed to public education, because the public education system in Hawaii takes care of all students in Hawaii and I don’t believe for a second the legislature would not fund this agreement,” said Okabe.

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