UPDATED 5/3/12 10:30 a.m.

Hawaii teachers will vote again on the contract settlement offer they overwhelmingly rejected in January, union leaders announced Wednesday night.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie‘s negotiating team returned to the bargaining table with the Hawaii State Teachers Association April 5. Less than a month later, those talks are apparently bearing fruit.

HSTA President Wil Okabe sent an email blast to members and posted a lengthy message on the union’s Facebook page explaining the decision. The HSTA bargaining team and the union’s board of directors unanimously decided Tuesday evening to ask the membership to reconsider the Jan. 6 tentative settlement.

Okabe also acknowledged that his team made a mistake in the way they handled the last vote, and promised not to repeat the flub.

“In order to rectify our mistake in rushing a ratification vote on January 19 — less than two weeks after the settlement was negotiated — we are initiating a full schedule of informational meetings for HSTA members,” Okabe wrote in his letter to the governor announcing the board’s decision.

Indeed, the union has scheduled 41 meetings on four islands as “information sessions” for all members.

Within three hours of its posting, the union’s Facebook page had 124 comments and counting. But that same message also said the “HSTA Facebook Team” would be “adjusting the page to only post updates.”

The comments varied from enthusiastic support to adamant opposition — mostly the latter.

Chuck Fulks posted this message: “Nobody wants to do what is necessary to save our dignity and save the future of public ed in Hawaii…STRIKE!!!!!!”

Jonathon Medeiros had this to say: “If we vote yes, we help create the system that will evaluate us. If we vote no, we will not get a better offer.”

Last year, HSTA’s labor contract expired before the state and the union could agree on a new one. That prompted the state to impose a contract that included a combination of salary cuts and unpaid leave on non-instructional days to achieve a 5-percent labor savings.

Under the Jan. 6 tentative settlement that teachers will reconsider, teachers would see 5 percent pay cuts lifted after two years in exchange for annual evaluations and performance-based pay. The contract also maintains their 50-percent share of health costs.


HSTA’s announcement came on the eve of a scheduled hearing before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday. But the hearing was canceled. Pressed for an explanation, labor officials said that not all of the parties could attend. A contract settlement would presumably end the case that has been dragging since July over the “last, best” contract that was unilaterally imposed by Abercrombie last summer.

The union also sent its letter about the re-vote decision to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. This is because of concerns that millions of remaining Race to the Top dollars could be yanked if the state doesn’t address a number of issues identified by federal officials.

Another interesting aspect of the Wednesday announcement was a joint quote from Okabe and Paul Daugherty, who is running against him for president. Voting for the election has ended, but results won’t be tabulated until this weekend.

“As candidates for HSTA President, we had our disagreements. However, we both agree that asking teachers to reconsider the January settlement proposal is in the best interest of Hawaii’s teachers and children,” they said.

Here’s more detail on the contract teachers will be voting on:

  • Contract Duration: July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2017 – Six-year contract with one re-opener to discuss possible future wage increases.
  • Effective June 30, 2013, the temporary 5 percent labor cost savings shall end and salary will be restored to the 2009 level.
  • Beginning July 1, 2013, teachers shall be moved to a new teacher salary schedule (10 & 12 month) which recognizes years of DOE service.
  • Effective July 1, 2013, a new annual evaluation system will replace PEP-T, the once every five years evaluation system currently in place.
  • Effective July 1, 2013, the new salary schedule shall provide for annual step movements based on teacher’s annual overall performance evaluation.
  • Effective school year 2012-2013, a newly hired teacher shall serve six semesters of probation. Upon earning tenure status, the teacher shall be eligible for a $2,500 bonus.
  • Effective school year 2014-2015, the Employer shall pay Hawaii Teacher Standards Board (HTSB) license renewal fees.
  • Effective upon ratification, teachers employed in DOE schools (non-charter) will have placement rights in the DOE if their school converts to a charter school.
  • Effective upon ratification, maintain a 45-minute teacher preparation time and increase of paid personal leave days to six days, from five.
  • Effective upon ratification through June 2013, four days of supplementary time off.
  • No change on health premium contribution split of 50/50.

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