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Judge approves $14 million for substitute teachers' backpay

By Nanea Kalani

LAST UPDATED: 1:28 p.m. HST, Nov 15, 2013

A state judge this morning approved backpay totaling more than $14 million for some 10,000 substitute teachers stemming from a class action lawsuit filed more than a decade ago.

"I feel very good about the decision," said former Maui substitute teacher David Garner, who brought the case against the state in 2002. "This has gone on way too long."

The settlement, approved by Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto, involves claims for daily wages. The state has said payments could go out as early as March.

A separate claim is seeking "tens of millions of dollars" in hourly backpay as well as interest payments on both daily and hourly amounts due, said Seattle attorney Murray Lewis.

"It's very discouraging to me, disheartening, that the state is still fighting us on the interest owed," Garner said. "It's our money."

Maui attorney Eric Ferrer, added, "It has been an epic battle ... David Garner is relentless and so are we. We won't stop until we have full and final justice in this case."

In his case, Garner argued that the Department of Education violated a 1996 state law pegging pay for substitute teachers to rates for Class II teachers -- full-time instructors who have bachelor's degrees but lack advanced training. Between 1996 and 2005, pay for substitute teachers increased just 11 percent, compared with 40 percent for Class II teachers.

The Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled in 2009 that the state underpaid thousands of Hawaii substitute teachers between 2000 and 2005. The Hawaii Supreme Court in 2010 sent the case back to Circuit Court to determine how much the teachers are owed.

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