Teachers, state near deal

HONOLULU — After nearly a year of negotiations, a tentative agreement has been reached between the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the state for a four-year contract starting July 1.

“It’s a good step in the right direction. It’s a step forward in trying to improve our schools,” said Corey Rosenlee, HSTA president. “Of course, there’s always things that we wish we could’ve gotten, but we’re happy with the agreement that we got to.”

The new contract calls for a 13.6 percent salary increase over the next four years.

Teacher evaluations will be changed to a system that supports its teachers, Rosenlee said. Additionally, the state has agreed to provide more money toward teachers’ health premiums.

Rosenlee said there are still unresolved issues.

“Specifically around SPED (Special Education) and class size,” he said. “But we will continue to advocate that we need to improve public education in Hawaii.”

The negotiations committee recommended acceptance of the agreement Saturday, which led to HSTA’s board voting in favor of the contract.

From Monday until Wednesday afternoon, meetings were held and the contract will go to a ratification vote today at schools across the state, including Kauai.

Rosenlee said he has been receiving positive responses from teachers, but he said much of the credit should go to Gov. David Ige.

“The governor made a commitment to do the best with the current budget and we know that he made education a priority,” he said. “Contract talks had stalled in many areas, even until a few days before we signed the contract, and it looked like we weren’t going to be able to get to a deal. The governor really stepped in and spent a lot of time working with both parties to find a compromise in the contract.”

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