Teachers will get to vote later this month on an agreement with the state that, if ratified, will replace the “last, best and final” offer that Gov. Neil Abercrombie imposed last July.

But is it a better deal than the one Abercrombie gave them six months ago? It may be too soon to say, but some teachers are uneasy.

Those close enough to the negotiations to know won’t share details, and experts on the outside say the little information that has been provided raises lots of questions.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe gave teachers a bullet-pointed synopsis of the agreement via a two-page letter on Wednesday night, but said the union’s leadership team is “working feverishly to finalize the important details needed to be signed and in place before you can review and vote on a new contract.”

Okabe did not respond to inquiries from Civil Beat, and state leaders refuse to talk about the agreement until it has been ratified.

With the information we have now, here’s how the two agreements stack up:

“Last, Best, and Final” New “Agreement in Principle”
Contract Length Two years Six years
Pay Reduced 5 percent Reduced 5 percent through June 30, 2013, then restored to 2009 levels with new salary schedule that “recognizes years of DOE service”
Furloughs Seven-and-a-half days for 10-month teachers, nine days for 12-month teachers, mostly on teacher planning days “Supplementary Time Off” Four days, unclear whether paid or unpaid
Evaluations In-class observation and interviews once every five years Annually beginning in 2013, with at least half of evaluation based on student assessment scores
Performance Pay None To be implemented in 2013
Tenure After two years After three years, with one-time $2,500 bonus
Share of Health Costs 50 percent 50 percent

The questions these items raise, for teachers and experts alike:

  • What is the teacher evaluation going to look like?
  • How exactly will the evaluations play into performance pay? Everyone who receives a “satisfactory” each year gets an automatic raise of the same amount?
  • How will performance pay work? This is typically among the most contentious issues between school districts and teachers.
  • Are the personal leave days still going to be taken out of sick leave? And will they be paid or unpaid?
  • What about the supplemental time off? Paid or unpaid? Is it just another name for the furloughed teacher planning days?

Okabe promised informational briefings that would be streamed live on the union’s members-only site, but meanwhile, reactions to the synopsis have been mixed — thanks in part to the lack of information.

“I don’t understand half the questions that are being asked now,” wrote one teacher on HSTA’s Facebook page. “We waiting for the information to review and the informational meeting before we vote like always.”

A handful claim it’s not as bad as it could be — “It really is not worse than what we have now,” wrote a teacher named Colleen Pasco.

“What I seen in the synopsis sounds good except having to bite the bullet through 2013,” wrote another, named Jon Fia.

But most suspect the agreement is a bum deal for them — some because they think returning to circa-2009 salaries in 2013 is insulting and disrespectful, and others because they are worried that evaluations that rely on student testing data will be unfair measures of their success.

For that reason, many say they will vote against it — and several are urging a strike.

“Have fun with the (evaluations),” wrote a teacher named Lin Brown. “We are a zone school.. We get two teams evaluating twice a week.. Every week until the end of school.. It’s constant.. I for one read between the lines.. I will vote NO!!”

“Strike!” wrote teacher Melinda Ahn. “I don’t hear anybody who is happy!”

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