Eric Stinton: New Contract Is A Much-Needed Win For Teachers But There's More To Be Done - Honolulu Civil Beat

Power local, independent journalism with a gift today and help us reach our goal of $250,000 by December 31.

Thanks to 738 donors, we've raised $108,000 so far!


Power local, independent journalism with a gift today and help us reach our goal of $250,000 by December 31.

Thanks to 738 donors, we've raised $108,000 so far!


About the Author

Eric Stinton

Eric Stinton is a writer and teacher from Kailua, where he lives with his wife and dogs. You can reach him on Twitter at @TombstoneStint and find his work at

The pay increase is absolutely necessary, but it’s not enough to fix the long-festering issues affecting Hawaii’s education system.

The latest teacher contract was a good start. Time to start thinking about the next one.

A few hours after voting commenced last week, a verdict had been reached. Teachers overwhelmingly supported the new contract that, among other things, will increase starting salaries for new teachers and guarantee pay increases for all teachers every year for the next four years, no strings attached. It will take effect starting July 1.

Although there was some pushback against the contract for not going far enough, the broad sentiment from the time it was announced was one of excitement.

It’s easy to understand why. Who would turn down a 14.5% raise over four years, especially when the last contract’s biggest accomplishment was avoiding pay cuts. 

This was a much-needed win for teachers, but also for the Hawaii State Teachers Association and its president Osa Tui Jr., who took over in 2021 a month after the previous contract was ratified. This was the first major hurdle under his tenure, and he cleared it with relative ease. 

But it’s important to maintain perspective. The new contract is a step in the right direction, but it’s also just that — a step.

In a previous column, I discussed how more money goes a long way to address the teacher shortage but will have less of an impact on turnover, which is driven by burnout. Increasing pay is absolutely necessary, but it’s also not enough to fix the long-festering issues that affect our education system — issues that, notably, do not often spawn from within our education system, but are nonetheless thrust upon it.

All work is a negotiation between money, labor and time. The contract for the next four years addresses one of those components, so here are a few ideas to bounce around for the next contract.

More Prep Time

When I was teaching in South Korea, I had three hours of prep every day for four hours of teaching. I used that time to provide feedback on student work, organize special events like lectures and field trips, create curriculum and collaborate with other teachers. 

I ran multi-campus debates and speech contests, mock trials and Model United Nations sessions. I worked with other teachers to create coursework that was printed in textbooks. 

None of this is the result of any particular competence I have. It’s merely the consequence of having lots of built-in time and space to plan cool things. 

The new contract is good news for Hawaii’s public school teachers, but there’s more work to be done. (Ku‘u Kauanoe/Civil Beat/2023)

Now, I have a little over three hours of prep every week, and meetings regularly devour entire prep periods. There’s been a lot of focus lately on providing teachers professional development opportunities, but whatever is learned from those trainings is either diluted or dissolved in the flow of the workday. Teachers need more time to not only sharpen their craft, but to optimally apply it.

The way to provide additional prep time is to hire more elective teachers, which also benefits students. Can’t go wrong with a win-win.

Longer Recess And Lunch Periods

Unstructured time is crucial for growth and development. Kids need breaks from learning to process what they’ve learned, but also to develop social skills through conversation and play. 

Recess is proven to reduce stress, which boosts students’ ability to focus and manage impulses. It also has been shown to improve academic performance and behavior. At a time when social emotional needs are heightened, giving kids more time to be kids seems like a no-brainer.

Currently, students get 15 minutes of recess and 30 minutes of lunch. I say we double it, or at the very least throw an extra 15 minutes on top of both. Extending the school day another 30-45 minutes would be worth what we’d get in return.

Get Rid Of The Educator Effectiveness System

Last year, I scrutinized the Educator Effectiveness System and asked what should have been a simple question to answer: what evidence do we have that this system works? In March, a group of researchers published an answer: there is none

Despite a significant amount of time and energy (aka money) poured into teacher evaluations, the researchers concluded that “teacher evaluation reforms had no detectable effect on student achievement or attainment.”

They found “little evidence that the effect of teacher evaluation reforms varied depending on the design rigor of the new evaluation systems states implemented, or that teacher evaluation improved outcomes for the academically vulnerable groups it was intended to benefit.”

If we are truly driven by evidence-based practices, then we need to listen to the evidence and stop wasting everybody’s time and money.

Change How We Count Years Of Service

For my first two years of teaching I was an emergency hire, which means I was not licensed, but I was allowed to teach because I was in the process of getting licensed. Emergency hires are typically only offered positions after all licensed candidates have turned them down.

My date of hire in the Department of Education is listed as August 1, 2012. This probably means nothing to you, just as it meant nothing to me. I simply applied, got interviewed, and accepted the first job I was offered.

This matters, however, because apparently the school year started July 24, 2012. Since I did not work that one week in July — a week where students were not on campus at my school — the DOE recorded my service as having missed a month. At the end of the year, I was credited as having worked nine out of 10 months. 

I learned all of this earlier this year when I did not qualify for compression pay because I missed the cutoff date for years of service — by a month. Meaning, that one week 10 years ago effectively eliminated an entire year in terms of receiving compression pay. One week=one month=one year, a time-bending branch of mathematics unique to the Hawaii DOE. 

Although this situation is specific to me, other teachers missed out for similarly silly reasons: they got hired a month into the school year after a teacher abruptly quit; they had to use a few weeks of unpaid vacation days at the end of the year to take care of a sick family member. This is a needlessly rigid way to honor years of service, a metric that affects not just pay but also things like sabbatical eligibility. 

We can measure service by months instead of years, so that nine months is not paid the same as six months or two months or zero months. We can add pay increases on a rolling basis, so that missing months of service only delays pay increases by the equivalent number of months. Or we can allow other teaching service — like the six-plus months of summer school I’ve taught in the DOE over the years — to compensate for whatever service is missing. Or, we can do all of those. 

The new contract has given us momentum that we can use to make substantive improvements to one of the most fundamentally important jobs in society.

I don’t present these ideas as the most pressing issues in education, just ones with straightforward solutions. The more we can fix the small- and medium-sized problems, the easier it will be to fix the big ones. See you in 2027.

Civil Beat’s education reporting is supported by a grant from Chamberlin Family Philanthropy.

Read this next:

Denby Fawcett: Tighter Regulation Of Vaping In Hawaii No Longer Just A Pipe Dream

Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.


About the Author

Eric Stinton

Eric Stinton is a writer and teacher from Kailua, where he lives with his wife and dogs. You can reach him on Twitter at @TombstoneStint and find his work at

Latest Comments (0)

Once again, Council Members and Lawmakers have pushed for higher pay and incentives instead of making sure the 64% pay increase the Lawmakers and Council Members made sure that got approved also, These Public Figures get their yearly increases in annual income and incentives and once they leave Politics have a lifetime annual income, medical and other luxury's that our teacher's have zero chance of getting anything near what these Public Officials will get, Yet the teacher's here in Hawaii are expected to educate the keiki which I bet include some of these Public Figures families, and the teachers have to buy supplies using their own resources for what ? oh I get it a $500 tax credit on their tax returns providing the teachers have receipts. So, to think that this "New Contract" was a much needed "win" for the teachers, when it should actually read " much needed" win for the Lawmakers and City Council. Someone should ask Tommy Waters (of the City Council) his plans for his pay increase ? I assure you his reply won't be " Oh I plan to help our teachers with it now" .Shame on the entire State Public figures for treating the teachers this way.

unclebob61 · 7 months ago

I was enjoying this one right up until the moment the author made clear his views on the Oxford comma. Disappointed, the say the least.

BEN · 7 months ago

You correlate a raise in pay with momentum to improve teaching conditions, but overlook the complicity involved in the permanent 21 hours of professional development. HSTA should be ashamed that they offer additional pay for teachers for staff training instead of professional development. And teachers need to say no to staff training as a means to increase their pay and instead sit with one another and spell out to the DOE (alias Department of Compliance) that teachers know best what professional development is. Strengthening administrative pride through compliance with those who earn higher salaries will not improve the interface between learning and teaching.

SwingMan · 7 months ago

Join the conversation


IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email to submit an idea.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.