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School teachers overwhelmingly approve new contract

By Nanea Kalani

LAST UPDATED: 2:05 a.m. HST, Apr 18, 2013

Public school teachers voted Wednesday to approve a $330 million, four-year contract that will tie their pay raises in part to student performance. The agreement, which includes annual pay increases and reduced medical premiums for teachers, brings closure to a two-year labor dispute with the state.

Ninety-five percent of teachers voted to ratify the contract, with 70 percent of the Hawaii State Teachers Association's 13,500 members casting ballots.

"Many teachers really took it to heart, they wanted a contract, they wanted to send a very strong message to the state of Hawaii that they wanted a fair and equitable contract," HSTA President Wil Okabe said at a press conference tonight. "I believe by this vote, it clearly shows that teachers are ready to go on to the next level and (we are) headed to educational transformation as we look at trying to improve teaching and also to improve learning for our students."

Regarding the contract's price tag, Okabe said, "I do not believe for a second that the Legislature would not fund this agreement."

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a written statement, "The teachers' ratification of this contract is a positive milestone for public education in Hawaii. We can now move forward as partners in transforming education for the benefit of our students and the entire state."

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