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Teachers’ union reaches 4-year contract deal with state

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    Teachers and supporters marched from the Neal Blaisdell Center to the state Capitol in support of the Hawaii State Teachers Association on Feb. 13.

Hawaii public school teachers would see multiyear pay raises totaling nearly 14 percent under a tentative four-year contract deal reached with the state today.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association’s board of directors unanimously voted to recommend the proposal to its 13,500 members for ratification next week.

The pay raises — which HSTA says would amount to 13.6 percent — include a combination of pay grade step increases and across-the-board 3.5 percent raises in alternating years.

The average annual salary for a 10-month teacher for the current school year is $58,959, according to the Department of Education.

“I am pleased that after nine months of negotiations, the state and the HSTA have reached a tentative agreement on a contract that will benefit Hawaii’s teachers and their students. … This raise will help stabilize the teaching force, which we know will improve teaching and learning conditions,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said in a statement issued Saturday night. “This package is the best we could do for our teachers, in spite of the state’s difficult fiscal outlook.”

Under the deal, Rosenlee said, the state also would increase its share of health insurance premiums. Currently the cost split varies among plans for teachers, but under the most popular health plan, the state covers 59 percent of the premium.

Rosenlee added that the tentative deal allows for HSTA to renegotiate health plan contributions and professional development in years three and four of the contract.

The proposed deal is significantly higher than what state negotiators had proposed in earlier rounds of contract talks. The state had offered teachers annual 1 percent lump-sum bonuses that would have been paid out in October of this year and next year.

The union had balked at the earlier offer, which would not have amounted to a raise because the bonuses wouldn’t be rolled into teachers’ base pay. HSTA said at the time that the average bonus would have been approximately $500.

Rosenlee credited Gov. David Ige’s involvement in negotiations for the more generous offer.

“The governor really worked hard to make this contract happen,” Rosenlee said in a phone interview Saturday. “He was working with us late at night and I think it really showed that education is a big priority to him.”

By comparison, under HSTA’s existing 2013-17 contract, the union secured annual raises of at least 3 percent, with alternating step-ups and 3.2 percent across-the-board raises. The union used what’s known as a re-opener clause to negotiate additional compensation for the final two years of that contact, including a one-time $2,000 bonus and a 1.8 percent raise that will kick in June 30, when the contract expires.

If a simple majority of teachers — 50 percent plus one vote — who vote on the proposed contract Thursday approve the agreement, the contract will begin July 1. A successful ratification vote would allow for the Legislature to fund the settlement by its April 28 fiscal deadline.

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