Letters for Tuesday, June 28, 2011

• ‘Last, best, final offer’ • Veto

HB667

‘Last, best, final offer’

Saturday’s article on teachers’ pay being reduced was unsettling to say the least.

Imagine being asked to vote in favor of a “1.5 percent reduction in teachers’ salary schedule and acceptance of leave without pay on certain non-instructional days for a total temporary wage reduction equivalent to 5 percent.” Imagine the gall of the BOE and the DOE!

Now imagine this: As a contractor, working on a government job, this author was obliged to pay wages that state and federal legislatures legislated (Bacon and Davis Bill) that defined salaries for various trades. Those salaries had to be paid as legislated and if those pay levels were not met this author would have been arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sent to jail.

Before anyone cries over teachers having to face a “1.5 percent reduction in teachers’ salary schedule” consider the fact that the BOE and the DOE illegally withheld 22 percent of substitute teachers’ pay for 9 years after the state Legislature, in 1996, legislated higher pay schedules for substitute teachers (approx. $130 per day) according to their educational levels: no college degree; college degree; master’s degree.

Teachers have an opportunity to vote on the BOE’s and DOE’s “Last, best, final offer…” upcoming contract whereas substitute teachers could not. The BOE and DOE merely embezzled portions of substitute teacher’s salaries for 9 years and were caught.

However, there were no arrests, charges or trials and instructions for the losing parties to pay the substitute teachers their well-deserved salaries for 5 of the 9 years: an estimated sum of $20 million to $40 million! No one is sure of the amount because evidently other sectors of the BOE and DOE realm of command, such as part-time teachers, custodians (?), and others may also have had pay withheld. Be that as it may, substitute teachers are owed well over $20 million plus attorney’s fees.

Perhaps the BOE and DOE should up the “reduction in teachers’ salary schedule” a bit closer to the substitute’s level, say 12 percent, before any tears begin to flow.

Or how about the unions, both the HSTA (teachers’ union that blocks substitute teachers efforts to obtain collective bargaining rights) and the HSTA (Hawai‘i’s state government employees union also blocking those rights) coming up with the $20 million plus and have them collect the funds from the BOE and DOE? Talk about a Fantasy World!

To date, not one red cent has been paid in retribution to substitute teachers. To date, not one BOE or DOE official has been even reprimanded; just the opposite. They have been given upper level positions or are living on their retirement income which this author is sure was shored up by “withheld pay” when substitute teachers, part time teachers, custodians, or whomever’s salaries were embezzled.

And to think that our present governor campaigned on announcements that he supported substitute teachers yet passed a state budget totally ignoring the state’s large Supreme Court decision mandating that these millions of dollars of withheld pay be paid back.

Gov. Abercrombie threw substitute teachers under “the bus” — including single moms trying to raise their kids on substitute pay which includes no benefits. Sound familiar? Must be part of Hawai‘i’s lesson plan objectives!

Now the tears can begin to well up. Not only for the pathetic state of affairs within Hawai‘i’s corrupt governing system or for the apathy of parents statewide when it comes to their children’s education, but most importantly for our children’s well-being and futures.

And we all wonder where aloha is going? Probably to a bus stop to await its turn: Wake up Hawai‘i!

John Hoff, substitute teacher, Lawa‘i

Veto HB667

Hawai‘i’s farms need your help.

HB 667 has been passed by the Legislature and awaits Gov. Abercromie’s signature. This bill requires food safety certification for all farms.

While this sounds like a good idea, there are many reasons this will harm small farms. For instance, the technique of aquaponics, which uses fish effluent to feed vegetables will be unable to be certified because of the requirement that animals and plants be separated.

A large aquaponics farm on the Big Island recently lost their Costco contract due to the anticipation of this bill passing.

Hawai‘i’s food is safe, and there is no need for a more restrictive environment for small farms.

In today’s geopolitical, economic, and energy realities, anything that makes it more challenging for food to be produced locally is dangerous. We must support our local farmers.

People have become too complacent and believe that the availability of cheap food shipped in on boats is a given. Look around the world to see that this is not the case. 

We must be more self-sufficient on these islands.

 Please, email or call the governor’s office and ask him to veto HB667. We must do our parts to make sure that Hawai‘i’s local food production increases rather than decreasing due to new onerous regulations.

Rick Goding, Kekaha

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