Categorized | Education

Education, HSTA update from Abercrombie

MEDIA RELEASE

The office of Gov. Neil Abercrombie released the following summary and update about public education and HSTA:

Summary

The Abercrombie Administration came into office needing to cover a state budget deficit of $1.3 billion. Abercrombie called on everyone in Hawaii to make a shared sacrifice to emerge from these challenging times.

For many months, the Department of Education, Board of Education, and the State of Hawaii engaged in bargaining with the Hawaii State Teachers Association negotiators to reach a new two-year agreement for July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013.

In April, both sides agreed to a temporary 5 percent wage reduction and an equal share of health care premium costs, reflecting terms agreed to by other public employees.

In June, both sides agreed to terms on a final offer that HSTA negotiators would recommend to the HSTA board. This included the 5 percent wage reduction, equal health care premium costs and other items, such as increased planning time, which reflect tentative agreements that had been made during negotiations through June.

The HSTA board rejected the entire proposed agreement that its negotiating team had authorized. The teachers were prevented from having the opportunity to vote on the proposed terms and HSTA did not present a counter offer. HSTA had earlier rejected the state’s offer of federal mediation.

On June 23, 2011, with the proposed agreement rejected by HSTA and the old contract about to expire, Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi sent a letter to DOE teachers, notifying them that the state would be implementing the terms agreed to by HSTA negotiators, referred to as the “last, best, and final offer” beginning on July 1, 2011.

That letter to employees provided information for teachers so they could prepare for the upcoming school year.

The “last, best and final offer” includes: the equivalent of the necessary 5 percent wage reduction (accomplished through a combination of a 1.5 percent salary reduction and directed leave without pay so as not to reduce instructional days), an equal contribution for health care premiums, and increased preparation time during the school week.

The “last, best and final offer” is reflective of the sacrifices being made by most employees of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, their non-union co-workers, government executives, legislators and judges.

All are taking a 5 percent wage reduction and paying an equal share of health care premiums to avoid disruptions to government services caused by “Furlough Fridays.”

Frequently Asked Questions

How does implementing the terms of the “last, best and final offer” affect students?

Implementing the “last, best, and final offer” ensures that there will be no lost instructional days, no large teacher layoffs that would increase class sizes, and increased preparation time for teachers during the school week. It also gives principals, teachers, staff, parents, and students advance information about the upcoming school year so that everyone can prepare.

Why was the state allowed to implement an agreement that was never voted on by teachers?

Implementation of the “last, best and final offer” is part of the collective bargaining process, and a decision that was necessary to avoid the alternative of disruptions to student learning. The opportunity for teachers to vote was lost when the HSTA board rejected the terms agreed to by the state and HSTA’s designated negotiators.

Did the state “walk away from the bargaining table”?

Many months of negotiations between the state and the HSTA concluded when the HSTA board rejected the final offer that was agreed to by its designated HSTA negotiators. Faced with no agreement and no counter offer, everyone needed to prepare for the upcoming school year. Implementation of the “last, best, and final” offer was the only recourse available to begin the school year on time.

Why didn’t the state give more time to the collective bargaining process with HSTA?

The state and HSTA had been engaged in negotiations for months knowing that the old contract was ending on June 30, 2011 and that it was important to conclude the matter in time to prepare for the new school year. Bargaining is not meant to go on indefinitely. Tentative agreements have been reached, which were included in the “last, best and final offer.” HSTA rejected this offer in total, has not provided any counter offer and time had run out.

Abercrombie said he is supportive of teachers. How is this action supportive of teachers?

Public school teachers have sacrificed over the years and, like all public employees, they have faced a lot of criticism. Abercrombie repeatedly reminds us that public workers are our neighbors, family members, and friends who pay taxes and have obligations just like everyone else. Abercrombie and his brother were teachers. His mother was a kindergarten teacher who was taken advantage of because she was not part of an organized union. He believes teachers should have been given the opportunity to vote on the agreement reached by their negotiators. But since that opportunity was denied, implementation of the agreed terms is the only way forward that puts education above all else in a time when all people of Hawaii are being asked to contribute their share.

Does the implementation of this “last, best and final offer” undermine the collective bargaining process?

No. Implementation of the “last, best and final offer” is part of the collective bargaining process. The rights of Hawaii workers to collectively bargain are embedded in the State Constitution. Abercrombie has been and will always be a champion of the rights of working people and the need for collective bargaining. But while the people of Hawaii want to hold on to our core values, they also want to change the ways that government operates to better address our current and future challenges. Collective bargaining remains important as we come up with new ways of thinking and working together.

What are the details of the current negotiated terms for teachers?

To read the description of terms being implemented for July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013, visit: hawaii.gov/gov/faq/HSTA.pdf

What are the next steps?

Abercrombie, the BOE, the DOE – including principals, teachers, and staff – along with parents and students are looking forward to the upcoming school year. The new school year brings the promise of improvements through President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, capital improvement projects slated for schools across our islands, the hard work and commitment of our state’s educators and through the shared leadership of the Governor, the BOE and the DOE. On July 8, 2011, HSTA lawyers filed a complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board. The complaint will go through the legal process, but in the meantime, the focus remains on educating our students and moving forward.

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