POSTED: 2:38 p.m. HST, May 23, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 2:59 p.m. HST, May 23, 2012
Hawaii teachers approved by a 2-to-1 margin a contract that they had previously rejected, although the governor has said the agreement is no longer valid.
"I am pleased to inform you that two-thirds of teachers (66 percent Yes, 34 percent No) have ratified the January agreement," Wil Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association said in message to members posted on the union website. "This vote is a testament that democracy is strong as ever among the HSTA membership. ...
"Just as teachers reconsidered their position, we are now asking the Governor to reconsider his. Our students deserve nothing less."
The state contends that the six-year contract proposal has "no legal standing" after teachers voted it down by a 2-to-1 margin in January. Instead, Gov. Neil Abercrombie wants to make a new deal with the union and has called for a return to the negotiating table.
The contract would continue 5 percent wage reductions through June 30, 2013, before moving to a new salary schedule that recognizes teachers' length of service. It would also make teachers eligible for 1 percent raises annually for those rated "effective" or "highly effective."
Union officials said they held the second vote in an effort to help the state hang on to a $75 million federal grant for education reform. Okabe said before the vote that the union considers it a "good and viable agreement." Members voted electronically and via telephone from Thursday through Tuesday.
Teachers have been working under a "last, best and final" contract imposed by the state on July 1, which included wage reductions an increases in health care costs. The union has challenged that move in a case before the Labor Relations Board that wrapped up last Thursday after 10 months of hearings. It is not clear when the board will rule.
After the January vote, some teachers said they felt pressured into a quick response to a deal that wasn't adequately explained, particularly the new evaluation system that would tie pay raises in part to student performance. Since then, the union has held briefings for teachers to explain its provisions.