Friday, January 12, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 12, 2001

Teachers should step to the head of the line

Teachers may be encouraged, but should not hold their breaths, as a result of a fact-finding panel’s recommendation that they deserve a 19 percent raise over four years. The process has a long way to go.

Neither should they be too discouraged at Gov. Ben Cayetano’s insistence that the state can only afford to give them 9 percent over the same period.

Both of these figures are being tossed around in an atmosphere in which one unit of government blue-collar workers has settled for an 11 percent raise and public white-collar workers are sporting an arbitrator’s opinion that they deserve a package worth 14.5 percent.

As we have said, lawmakers face a truly difficult task in their upcoming session — figuring out where the money for pay raises should come from, and how large they should be. (Never mind that Cayetano hasn’t included money in his budget for pay raises. Everyone including Cayetano expects to see pay raises.)

Lawmakers must be fair to all of our public workers, but they needn’t be equally fair. It is clear that the public expects this to be a year of focus on improving Hawaii’s struggling education system, and an essential part of that mission is assuring adequate recruitment and retention of teachers, who by almost any standard are underpaid.

A pay raise for teachers in the neighborhood of 19 percent should in no way imply that all public workers must in fairness receive a similar increase. This is the year that teachers must step to the head of the line.

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