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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 1, 2007

Teachers' extra hours studied

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

Although the state's public school teachers have more than six months left on their contract, preparations for negotiations are under way, with both sides looking extensively into the issue of extra hours that teachers work and whether that should mean additional wages.

But there's a long way to go to reach agreement on whether teachers deserve extra money for what Hawai'i State Teachers Association president Roger Takabayashi calls the hundreds of extra hours they put in every year chiefly because of federal mandates under the No Child Left Behind Act.

"They love teaching and love the children, but it's the other things that are really burning them out," Takabayashi said. "They need a lot more support."

School board member Maggie Cox, part of the negotiating team for the administration, agreed that the issue of time is immense and one that will eventually come down to money.

"I've had principals ask me for an extended day," Cox said. "But even if you extended it by one hour, you're talking about one hour by 12,000 teachers by the rate of pay, and I don't think that's something possible."

The issue came up in negotiations two years ago, Takabayashi said, but was so immense there were no easy or apparent solutions. As a result, a joint administration/union Time Committee was formed to study the issue.

After months of gathering information, the committee expects to release a study this month, Takabayashi said.

Teachers are contracted for 190 days of teaching, Takabayashi said. Under the contract in effect from mid-2005 to mid-2007, teachers saw a pay increase of 9.5 percent. In the previous contract, the increase was much smaller.

But those were very different economic times, he said.

"At that time there wasn't the major surplus we have now," he said, referring to the robust economy the state is enjoying, including budget surpluses.

Cox said both sides will be looking for creative solutions and solutions that may come out of the current DOE investigation of practices at the state's best and highest scoring schools to see how changes might be made both to funding plans under the weighted student formula and testing mandates under NCLB.

"I'm trying to look at, are all the things we're doing necessary," Cox said. "I know No Child Left Behind says certain things, but are we going too far?

"When I talk with teachers they'll tell me, 'We're trying to address it in all different kinds of ways.' "

But still, they say the bottom line is they need more time to talk together, plan together and coordinate lessons.

"We had a (recent) presentation about middle school and high school redesign and one of the things I asked was, 'What do you really want?' And middle schools clearly said they need more money to have more teaming and meetings together. That's a real piece of the middle school philosophy."

Negotiations won't really start rolling until after the Council of Revenues comes out this month and then again in March with estimates of what the state can expect to have available for the budget for the coming biennium.

Only then will the governor, state budget director and state Legislature know how much play there will be in putting together the next two-year state budget.

But by that point, negotiators could be hard pressed to reach agreement on a contract in time for legislators to fund it before the session adjourns.

Takabayashi said the two sides should be exchanging packages soon, but neither will be able to talk about exactly what is being asked for. For the department's side, Cox said that would be a breach of confidentiality.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.