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Hawaii News | Whatever Happened To

Substitute teachers’ suit in court to determine back pay

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / FEB. 1, 2005
    Substitute teachers demonstrated at the state Capitol in 2005, alleging they had been systematically underpaid. A state judge that year issued a series of rulings mostly siding with the teachers, but the case is still in the courts as the teachers and state wrangle over just how much the state must pay them.
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Question: Whatever happened to the state substitute teachers’ lawsuit against the Department of Education for back pay for underpaying them?

Answer: The case is back in state Circuit Court to determine how much the state owes the substitute teachers after the Hawaii Supreme Court refused last August to hear the state’s appeal.

A state judge in 2005 issued a series of rulings mostly siding with the teachers. The Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld the judge’s rulings in 2009.

Both sides are collecting data to independently come up with an amount owed to the substitutes and are not at a point where they can compare numbers, said James Halverson, deputy state attorney general.

A lawyer for the teachers has said the back pay for about 10,000 affected substitutes could top $30 million.

If the two sides cannot agree on an amount, the judge or a jury will decide it in trial.

The two sides have met twice with the court since last summer. However, the court has not scheduled a trial date.

The case is a consolidation of lawsuits, the first one filed in 2002.

A 1996 state law directed the state to pay substitute teachers a daily rate based on the annual salary for regular entry-level teachers who earned a DOE teaching certificate based on "four acceptable years of college education and other requirements as may be established by the department."

The substitutes said the state paid them less than that from 1996 to 2005. During that period the pay for substitutes, who are not members of a collective bargaining unit, increased 11 percent while the teachers on whose salaries their pay was supposed to be based, and who are members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, saw their pay increase 40 percent.

One of the 2005 court rulings limits the amount of back pay the substitutes can collect to the period of November 2000, two years prior to the filing of the first lawsuit, to June 2005, because of the statute of limitations.

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This update was written by Nelson Daranciang. You can write to us at Whatever Happened To …, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail cityeditors@staradvertiser .com.

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