Sunday, January 28, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 28, 2001

Experienced teachers need pay hike, too ...

At this point, the No. 1 thing we’re looking for in contract talks between the state and the teachers’ union is movement, so Gov. Ben Cayetano’s latest proposal is welcome even if it’s not quite up to the mark.

The two sides are in a 60-day cooling-off period that ends March 17, but they’re still talking. That’s good.

Cayetano continues to maintain (and it probably is true) that the state cannot afford all of the pay raises that public worker unions demand, deserve and claim they’re entitled to.

That said, it’s pretty clear that the public expects a meaningful pay hike for teachers this year, and the Legislature appears eager to deliver it.

Cayetano’s latest offer involves a generous increase in starting salaries, plus higher pay for teachers in "shortage areas." As we say, it’s a helpful suggestion, but if the goal as Cayetano says is to end the state’s chronic shortage of teachers, it comes up seriously short.

The problem isn’t just recruitment of new teachers - although that’s a serious part of it. Retention of experienced teachers is the other part of it. For one thing, too many good teachers are opting to leave the state or change careers because they’ve burned out their good intentions and decided it’s time for greater reward for their considerable talents.

In addition, a substantial cohort of teachers are nearing retirement age. Our suggestion that Cayetano’s proposal falls short in addressing retention of experienced teachers is not quite the same, however, as the teachers’ union’s demand for an across-the-board percentage pay increase. Management does have the right and responsibility to target pay raises where they will do the most good.

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