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Teachers resoundingly reject contract proposal

By Mary Vorsino

LAST UPDATED: 8:41 p.m. HST, Jan 19, 2012

Public school teachers have voted overwhelmingly against a six-year contract that proposed the transition to performance-based raises starting in July 2013.

Sixty-seven percent of teachers voted against the contract, the Hawaii State Teachers Association announced tonight.

“While I recommended the proposal to you, my real job is to carry out the decisions you make,” said Wil Okabe, HSTA president, in a statement on the union’s website. 

“So beginning tomorrow, I will initiate a union-wide conversation about our options going forward, listen to your suggestions, roll up my sleeves, and get back to work. Many of you have suggested that we return to the negotiating table.

“Others of you believe a strike vote should be our next step. And still others have suggested that we continue with our legal challenges. Each of these points of view should be considered and discussed. We will do so, together.”

He continued, “Tonight I will rest easy knowing that as long as we stay together, we will achieve what is best. For now, I ask that each of you — no matter how you voted — stay focused. We cannot grow tired or weary because our cause is just.”

Under the proposed contract, teachers would have continued to see 5 percent wage reductions through June 30, 2013, before moving to a new salary schedule that recognizes their years of service with the state Department of Education. The DOE would also have moved to a revised teacher evaluation system, and teachers rated “effective” or “highly effective” will be eligible for 1 percent “step” raises annually.

The agreement was to run retroactively, from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2017.

The failure to ratify the deal means a months-long labor dispute with teachers will continue. The dispute placed at risk Hawaii’s $75 million federal Race to the Top grant.

Delays in reaching collective bargaining agreements on key reform issues, including new teacher evaluations, have been blamed in part for the U.S. Department of Education’s decision last month to deem Hawaii’s Race grant “high risk” and warn the money would be lost if progress wasn’t made.

Teachers have been working under a “last, best and final” contract imposed July 1. The union says the state violated members’ rights in unilaterally implementing the contract, while the state argues the action was needed to save jobs.

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