Teachers left school dismayed Friday as news broke that the proposed state constitutional amendment to increase property taxes to fund education had not passed out of conference committee.

The amendment would have taxed second properties, with exceptions, and visitor income.

But emotions did a quick 180-degree turn Saturday night when an Hawaii State Teachers Association email blast informed union members that a new agreement had been negotiated with the state.

HSTA Teacher march to Hawaii State Capitol. Fund our Schools. 13 feb 2017
Teachers and others marched to the Capitol in February in support of more funding for public education. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

After months of tense negotiations, first clandestine, then one-sidedly public, teachers will vote Thursday afternoon whether to ratify the proposed four-year deal.

If the agreement is passed by the membership, it must be approved and funded by the Legislature.

A later email contained sections of the agreement that highlight the agenda of HSTA President Corey Rosenlee. The settlement documents look a lot more like union proposals than reported state offerings.

Pay Increase

Teachers will see a bigger paycheck starting at the beginning of the new school year when a 1.8 percent increase negotiated in the previous contract takes effect. In October, all educators will have a “step movement” connected to years of service. A step movement adds about $2,000 to a teacher’s salary. Teachers already at the top step will receive a $1,500 bonus.

In October 2018, the across-the-board pay scale will increase 3.5 percent.

This process will repeat for the following two years; a step movement, then a raise. This all calculates to a 13.6 percent pay increase over four years.

This could boost for teacher recruitment. By the 2018-19 school year, a newly licensed teacher will receive a salary of $50,574, far more competitive than the current $46,601.

Better Health Coverage

HSTA also argued for greater employer coverage in the Employer Union Trust Fund system, which was granted through changes in certain areas, specifically a huge rate cut to the HMSA PPO 75/25 plan. Teachers will have to be quick to act on this, as EUTF enrollment for next year ends Friday. HSTA has requested an extension of the deadline.

Streamlined Teacher Evaluations

The Educator Evaluation System has long been a point of contention between the Department of Education and the union. Most teachers consider the system unreliable and an overwhelming amount of extra work on top of teaching responsibilities.

Under the new agreement, tenured teachers rated as effective are responsible for planning and implementing an Individual Professional Development Plan. The IPDP allows teachers to decide an aspect of their practice they want to improve on during the year and how they will provide evidence on that improvement. It is currently being implemented as a part of the EES.

These teachers will have to undergo a full evaluation every four years.

HSTA also included in their email a letter from Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi approving the change.

Unfortunately, the EES contains the same “enhanced” workload for untenured teachers entering the profession. Teachers rated not effective will also have “enhanced” evaluations.

English Language Learners Committee

The HSTA included a number of proposals to address social justice measures in our classrooms, high among them being additional support for special education teachers.

The only one to get through was the formation of a committee to look at the conditions of English Language Learners. Considering what the union was pushing for with its offer, this seems like the area where it got the least.

Lessons Learned?

As I have previously written, this style of hard-line, publicly transparent negotiations is new to the HSTA. The months of planned public actions, including the 6,000-person march on the Capitol, as well as regular updates on the status of negotiations, seemed riskier than the approaches used during previous contract disputes.

Many teachers were on edge over the new tactics, but it seems that Rosenlee’s activist style of administration has paid off. The 13.6 percent total pay raise is comparable to the previous contract, excluding the 5 percent back-pay bonus that contract included.

Or perhaps this was an instance of being in the right place at the right time. Gov. David Ige, who was present at some of the final negotiations, ran against Gov. Neil Abercrombie with the HSTA behind him after teachers felt betrayed by the 2011 forced contract.

Ige’s victory was assisted by the former HSTA administration under Wil Okabe. Would it have mattered who was helming the ship with Ige at the table? And why was there such a misdirect from his office, offering only 1 percent bonuses each of the next two years when the negotiations began?

There may be no simple explanation for why this contract happened, but we should be grateful it did.

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