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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 14, 2004

Teachers accept 2-year deal

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Education Writer

Hawai'i's public school teachers voted yesterday to endorse a new two-year contract with the state that will bring them raises of between 4 percent and 11 percent beginning next school year.

Jennifer Fukuda, left, and Jeanette Yasui, center, both teachers at Kalihi Kai school, fill out forms, while Norene Furatani mans the table at McKinley High School, where teachers voted yesterday on a new two-year contract.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The Hawai'i State Teachers Association, which represents the state's 13,000 teachers, announced last night that 81 percent of teachers who voted favored the $29.6 million contract. The union estimates that, after absentee ballots are counted, about half of the union's membership will have voted.

Joan Husted, the union's executive director, said teachers were pleased but still want the state to do more to make teacher salaries competitive.

"We've got to escalate it," Husted said. "Otherwise, kids are not going to have qualified teachers."

Starting teachers will see about a $2,200 increase, bumping their salaries to $36,486 a year, according to the union. Veteran teachers at the highest pay scale will get a $2,500 raise, pushing their salaries to $66,203.

Troi Orias, who is in his second year teaching special education at Pauoa Elementary School, said he wants to remain a teacher but admits it is a struggle. He questions why many young teachers have to sacrifice financially, and he has doubts about whether he made the right choice.

"I want to," he said of teaching as a career, adding that his mother was trained as a teacher and his grandmother was a teacher. "But at the same time I want to be real about whether I can survive. I want to be able to own my own house one day and, right now, I don't know whether I'll be able to do it."

The contract covers 2003 to 2005, and union leaders clarified some of the terms yesterday, updating previous information released publicly after the union and the state settled on April 28. Negotiations with the state on a new contract for the following two years will begin in November.

The state and the teachers' union had started far apart when contract talks picked up this spring, leading some teachers to complain about a lack of respect, but most teachers were satisfied with the outcome.

"With education as the administration's top priority, we believe this is a step in the right direction toward helping to recruit and retain quality teachers for Hawai'i's public schools," Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona Jr. said.

Denise Matsumoto, a member of the state Board of Education, who served on the state's negotiating team, described the deal as "a good, fair contract."

"I think it rewarded our senior teachers and will help us to recruit new teachers," she said.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.