The state teachers union says state negotiators are offering public school teachers a 1 percent lump sum payment over each of the next two years.

But the Hawaii State Teachers Association calls that unacceptable.

“I think what the statistics show is that if you continue to pay teachers the worst in the nation, they’re going to leave,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee told Civil Beat after an email was sent out to HSTA members Thursday night about the state’s offer.

The state and HSTA have been bargaining for several months on the terms for a new contract. The current one expires June 30.

Teachers rallied at the Capitol last year to raise support of their union’s proposed legislation. Much of it was rejected, and now the union says the state’s new contract offer is unacceptable.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The 1 percent increase would only amount to $550 for the average teacher, Rosenlee said. In the email to HSTA members, Rosenlee wrote that after taxes and increases in health care costs, teachers would actually see a decrease in their pay.

Also, according to the union, the state is not offering to increase its share of the cost of health benefits. HSTA wants the state to increase its share from 60 percent to 75 percent.

Rosenlee said Hawaii teachers are paid significantly less – ranging from $4,000 to $25,000, depending on experience – compared to other school districts with similar costs of living.

“The reality is that our teachers are highly qualified, well educated people and they have choices,” Rosenlee told Civil Beat. “And they have been expressing their choices with their feet by leaving Hawaii.”

Lindsay Chambers, spokeswoman for the DOE, said the department can’t comment on the offer because negotiations are ongoing.

In a statement released through Deputy Communications Director Jodi Leong, Gov. David Ige said the intent of the collective bargaining law is that contract negotiations are between the employer and the union representatives.

“Therefore, out of respect for this long-standing process, we will not be negotiating in the media,” Ige said in his statement. “My team is committed to negotiating in good faith for all the state’s public employees.”

In addition to asking for bigger pay increases “(to be determined)” that would be based on experience levels and other factors, HSTA told its members it is proposing that changes be made to how teachers are evaluated and what the teaching and learning environment should look like.

HSTA is also asking that a joint committee be formed with the state to determine how the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act should be implemented. The act provides the states with more power to decide how schools should be held accountable, evaluated and determined successful.

The last time HSTA and the state negotiated the terms of their contract was in 2015, when the 2013-2017 contract was reopened to address issues related to pay.

At that time, they agreed on a one-time lump sum payment for licensed teachers – $2,000 for full-time teachers and $1,000 for half-time teachers – and a 1.8 percent across-the-board base salary increase that would take effect on the last day of the contract. These were in addition to any agreements that were already in place at the time.

On Feb. 13, HSTA will hold a march starting at the Neal Blaisdell Center, where it will hold its Teacher Institute Day, to the state Capitol to demand a better contract.

The state and HSTA will meet again on Feb. 23 to resume negotiations.

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