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Agreement clears free travel for teachers, clarifies policy


    “We are very pleased to reach an agreement that will provide clarity to our teachers while allowing them to continue a longstanding practice,” Wilbert Holck, director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association said.

Public school teachers may resume traveling free as chaperones on educational field trips without running afoul of the Ethics Code, under an agreement announced today between the teachers’ union and the State Ethics Commission.

“We are very pleased to reach an agreement that will provide clarity to our teachers while allowing them to continue a longstanding practice,” Wilbert Holck, director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said today. “Our teachers always want to set a good example for their students. This agreement makes sure that our teachers are not only doing the best they can for their students, but are doing their jobs with the utmost integrity.”

The deal struck by the union and the commission allows teachers to plan trips with private companies and serve as chaperones as long as they abide by Board of Education policies, including a requirement that the travel has clear educational benefit for students.

In 2015 the Ethics Commission issued advice to teachers against organizing and promoting student trips with travel agencies and then traveling free as chaperones. The commission said the practice put teachers in a conflict of interest and violated the gifts law.

The teachers union filed suit over the issue and in June a judge invalidated the commission’s advice. Circuit Court Judge Rhonda Nishimura said the advice was not issued promptly and that in any case such advice was subject to rule-making and public input because it applied to a broad group, rather than an individual teacher.

Tour companies typically allow one chaperone to travel free for every eight to 10 travelers on a tour. This practice may now continue as long as teachers inform students and their families in advance that the teacher’s travel will be covered by the tour company. Teachers may accept no personal “perks,” such as tablet computers, and must give such items to the Department of Education for use in classrooms.

“Hawaii’s teachers work hard and exemplify integrity for their students every day,” Daniel Gluck, who became executive director of the Ethics Commission in August, said in a statement. “This agreement ensures that teachers can continue to provide invaluable travel opportunities for Hawaii’s students while demonstrating the highest ethical standards for their schools and the community.”

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    • The original issue wasn’t just free trips (which a teacher should be allowed to do, since being a chaperone is WORK). But, they were getting very expensive gifts like FREE IPADS for choosing one travel company over another, without considering what the cost to the students would be. That IS a conflict between the teachers’ interest in getting expensive gifts versus minimizing the costs to public school students who may come from poor families. I know the union like to focus on the “free trip” part because most people think that was perfectly fair — but they gloss over the “free ipads” part, and we shouldn’t forget that part was not ok, and apparently everyone agreed it’s not “ok” because the teachers have to turn any gifts in to the DOE.

    • It makes sense. These trips add a great deal to the education of the keiki who, otherwise, might be stuck on the rock with little realistic sense of the better world outside Hawaii.

  • Something must be wrong with the negative people that think chaperoning a group of students is simple, like taking gamblers to Vegas. There’s a lot of responsibility involved. Chaperones should get paid extra besides the free trip.

    • Agree, I think most of the teachers are doing this for the benefit of the children. A free trip is a compensation for putting this thing together, not an easy task and a lot of responsibilities.

      • You could not pay enough to chaperone any bunch of children unfettered from their parents. It’s tough job like ramrodding/responsible for a herd of cattle.

        • I used to be a teacher a long time ago and it was fun. Treat them as adults and they’ll behave as adults.

    • Remember, these are the same individuals that believe teaching is an easy profession that is overpaid. Chaperoning a large group of students for an extended period, like a mainland trip, is exhausting. Inequity of spending money, inattention, bathroom breaks, shoplifting, fighting, insubordination, etc. Half the kids spent their money in the first few days and had no resources to purchase food for the remainder of the trip. In this case, guess who pays to feed them. I speak from experience that, even if I got my trip covered by parents and they paid my daily wage, it would not be worth it. Personal family time is much more valuable than spending time with unappreciative kids and parents. Did it twice, on my own dime, and it’s not worth the headache. In one case, we spent around $500 to feed half the students and the unappreciative parents did not want to reimburse us. Said it was our responsibility to manage their child’s money, even though we did not have physical possession of it. Think of the headaches you endure trying to convince a kid that eating is more important than the nice sweatshirt he/she wants to buy. The Ethics commission had to do that otherwise no teacher in their right mind would go on these trips.

  • Knew teachers, at their own expense, who traveled with groups of students going to various educational events and conferences to help chaperone the kids. I have no problem with teachers who are allowed to travel free by the tour companies. Having worked in a DOE school – teachers have a thankless job, often with little support from the DOE. YMMV

  • There needed to be clarity on rules and limitations, as well as official oversight by the DOE in this expensive and lucrative (for the companies, and when you’re talking about iPad incentive bonuses, the teachers) when students are persuaded to participate (and their parents persuaded to pay a presumable premium to pay for teacher travel and prizes, over the actual coast of the trip). I would think selection of the travel companies should be the formal subject of Hawaii procurement law. My understanding of what was going on was that no formal State oversight was taking place.

  • What is this guy saying? It would’ve been unethical to take free trips but now that the Ethics Commission has come ’round, they can now say they are setting a good example ethically by taking free trips?

  • Everyone seems to not understand that the travel of chaperone teachers is not free. Travel agencies may show the cost of chaperone travel as a business expense, but the cost actually is indirectly being paid by students going on the trip. The standard practice is for travel agencies to jack the price paid by students by $200 or $300 to cover chaperone travel.

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