State blames teachers for impasse
By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer
As 13,000 teachers gathered around the state yesterday to consider strategies for doing battle with Gov. Ben Cayetano over their unsigned contract, the state expressed exasperation with the war of words and lashed back at the union.
Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
Teachers chat before a meeting to discuss the contract situation between HSTA and the governor's office. Many are leaning toward legal action against the state.
Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
"The captain of this so-called Titanic is the HSTA," said Davis Yogi, the governor's chief negotiator.
But the union said those were routine questions about the implementation of a bonus, not a sign that they were confused about whether or not teachers would receive the extra pay.
The governor and HSTA disagree on whether 3 percent bonuses for teachers with advanced and professional degrees were meant to be for one or two years of the contract.
Meanwhile, HSTA held 16 meetings around the state, including nine on O'ahu, to update teachers on the contract situation, answer questions and gauge their reaction to the state's latest offer.
Teachers were given the options of legal action, strike or negotiation. And at least at Moanalua High School, where more than 400 teachers gathered, the consensus seemed to steer toward a legal battle.
"The mood was frustration and anger," said HSTA President Karen Ginoza. "They want to see the contract implemented."
The non-scientific results from the show-of-hands votes will be taken to the HSTA board on Saturday. Board members will decide which course of action to take at that time.
Carol Nitta, a kindergarten teacher at Enchanted Lake Elementary School, said most teachers want to avoid another strike. Teachers struck for three weeks in April in an attempt to secure a new contract.
"Most people said to take the legal route," Nitta said. "We have to abide by the rules, but it doesn't seem the governor has to follow the same rules we do."
Louise Cayetano, a sixth-grade teacher at Fern Elementary School, went to college for an extra year to earn her professional diploma. She is one of the 6,479 teachers who would would receive the 3 percent bonus for an advanced degree. "I really believe finally the time has come to reward teachers who have pursued something beyond a bachelor's," she said. "It's a long time coming. We wanted to be compensated a long time ago."
HSTA has said the state is reneging on the contract, but Yogi said those are unfounded accusations.
"I think it gets to a point where facts get twisted, truths get stretched and we have to resort to black and white documents," Yogi said.
The April 29 fax is proof that HSTA officials were confused about the contract, Yogi said. "This document proves that they had questions," he said. "We did not have any questions. We were very clear."
Questions in the fax include: "How will the 3% or 6% differential be paid? Lump sum or prorated?"; "Which masters degrees get the 3%?"; and "Do you get credit for both a (professional diploma) and a Master's?"
The proposed contract reads: "Teachers who hold professional certificates based on a Master's degree or a Professional Diploma shall receive a 3% differential calculated on their current salary each year."
That wording was written by HSTA staff and reviewed by both parties April 23 when they reached their tentative agreement, but the state said a $6 million price made it clear the bonus was for one year only. HSTA fliers also show the $6 million amount.
The state is now offering $9.7 million.
Donna Yamamoto, a math teacher at Moanalua High School who has a professional diploma and is working on her master's degree, said the state should honor the contract language.
"'Each implies more than one year," she said. "It seems very clear. I just feel sick. We struck for three weeks and that was in April. I'm pregnant, and I wanted that money for my baby. We thought we had a contract. We thought we were done."
The lack of signatures on the contract has delayed salary increases and the distribution of an $1,110 retention bonus.
Reach Jennifer Hiller at email@example.com or 525-8084.