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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, September 20, 2001

Teacher contract pact offers glimmer of hope

A small glimmer of positive news emerged yesterday with word that the state and the public teachers union had reached an agreement on the long-stalled teachers' contract.

The compromise worked out was virtually the same as one offered by Gov. Ben Cayetano weeks ago. It should not have taken this long for everyone to come to their senses.

In effect, the two sides "agreed to disagree" on the issue of special 3 percent bonuses or differentials for teachers with master's degrees or certain professional diplomas.

The union sees these payments as a differential that would be built into the base salary of qualified teachers for each of the two years of the contract.

The state maintained the payment was a one-time bonus, payable only in the first year of the contract.

That's a substantial disagreement, but not one that should have kept the two sides from settling the rest of the contract. The dispute has kept teachers on edge and has pushed some of the work toward educational reform off track.

Our position has been that even if the state sincerely believes that its position was the one reached during negotiations, it should have gone ahead and paid for both years. That's primarily because the contract the teachers voted to approve explicitly offered the payment for two years.

The two sides will continue to talk about this issue. One compromise might be to offer payment for two years, but make it explicit that the payment is a bonus, not something that should be considered part of the base pay of qualified teachers.

Clearly, the impetus for reaching this settlement was the much larger issue of the terrorist attack on the East Coast and the looming economic issues Hawai'i will face.

It should not have taken events of this magnitude to bring people to their senses.