Categorized | Education

Governor statement on HSTA mediation outcome


On Aug. 20, 2012 the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) and the State of Hawaii agreed to engage the help of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to resolve our differences for the sake of students and school teachers.

The Federal Mediator informed the state on Thursday, Oct. 4 that HSTA will no longer continue that process of mediation.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie released the following statement:

“The Federal Mediator has informed us that HSTA is ending their participation in mediation. I am very disappointed that HSTA once again is not willing to engage in discussions that could resolve outstanding issues.

“For many months, we repeatedly asked HSTA to come to the table to have meaningful and good-faith negotiations. When they refused to participate in negotiations, we agreed on Federal Mediation as a way to move forward and resolve our differences.

“We continue to remain willing to engage in mediation. It is impossible to negotiate with people who refuse to talk.”

Background and Frequently Asked Questions

In January 2011, the Abercrombie Administration entered office facing a state budget deficit of $1.3 billion. Abercrombie called on everyone in Hawaii to make a shared sacrifice so that together we would emerge from the challenging times.

For many months, the State of Hawaii, including the state Department of Education (DOE) and Board of Education, engaged in bargaining with the negotiators representing HSTA to reach a new two-year agreement for public school teachers for the period running from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2013.

In April 2011, 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 2011, 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 – reflecting tentative agreements that had been made during negotiations throughout June.

However, 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 2009-2011 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.

On July 8, 2011, HSTA lawyers filed a complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB).

On July 21, 2011, the State of Hawaii submitted its response to the HSTA complaint. The issue remains in the jurisdiction of the HLRB, and state will respect this process.

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.”

In early January 2012, a new, six-year tentative agreement, aimed at teacher advancement and student achievement, was reached and unanimously approved by the HSTA executive board.

However, teachers rejected the proposed six-year contract. On Jan. 19, 2012, HSTA membership failed to ratify the tentative agreement presented by their board.

On Jan. 20, 2012, Abercrombie sent a letter to the HSTA to reaffirm that the state remains ready to work together to move forward and is requesting a new proposal from HSTA.

On Jan. 23, 2012, Abercrombie began his annual State of the State address repeating the request that the HSTA provide a proposal as soon as possible.

The governor went on to say that the state will be using all management, administrative, legislative and legal tools at its disposal to implement an evaluation system that not only measures but achieves student growth; turns around low-performing schools; and supports teachers in increasing their effectiveness.

The governor has a priority bill regarding educator evaluation – House Bill 2527 and Senate Bill 2789. The bill expands the “Reinventing Education Act of 2004” (a.k.a. “Act 51”) to include teachers in performance contract requirement which already applies to principals and complex area superintendents.

The bill also defines the evaluation to include educators’ professional practice and their contribution to students’ learning and growth.

On Feb. 28, 2012, the HSTA submitted a new contract proposal that the state considered to be fiscally irresponsible and devoid of reasonable policy regarding standards and performance.

On March 19, 2012, the state responded to the HSTA proposal with a settlement offer that is financially sound and advances student achievement and support for teachers in the classroom.

Specifically, it reflects the pilot performance-based evaluation system that includes student outcomes. This system, as proposed, incorporates protocols that prevent arbitrary personnel consequences. This offer also includes improving the probation and evaluation system for teachers that will be hired in the future.

On April 17, the Hawaii Board of Education (BOE) unanimously voted in favor of policies for professional performance-based evaluation for Hawaii public school teachers (and principals) that will be developed collaboratively with teachers and subject to due process provisions in HSTA and HGEA’s collective bargaining agreements.

With negotiations still ongoing to discuss the latest contract proposal presented in March 2012, HSTA announced plans to conduct a revote on the January 2012 contract proposal rejected by its members.

After the HSTA cancelled the last scheduled negotiation session that had been set for May 7, the state sent a letter to HSTA expressing concern and recommending that negotiations reconvene on May 14. HSTA declined.

The state remains available to continue collective bargaining negotiations with HSTA.

On May 17, after 10 months of hearings before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB), the HSTA concluded its case and the state immediately rested its case. Upon hearing the news, Abercrombie encouraged HSTA leadership to accept the state’s offer to continue negotiations.

On May 23, HSTA President Wil Okabe informed Abercrombie that teachers voted on the rejected January agreement in what HSTA called a “ratification vote.”

The results showed that majority of teachers who voted are now in favor of the contract they previously rejected. Abercrombie encourages HSTA to submit a new proposal for discussion, and when HSTA returns to collective bargaining, the results of the vote will be seriously considered.

HSTA sent a letter dated July 17 to the Governor’s Chief Negotiator Neil Dietz, BOE Chairperson Donald Horner, BOE Member Jim Williams and DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi again asking the state to sign the January proposal, despite the state’s repeated statements that HSTA’s rejection of the proposal in January rendered it invalid.

On July 25, Dietz responded to HSTA on behalf of the state with a letter urging the union to renew negotiations.

Abercrombie has proposed federal mediation with HSTA, stating that the invitation “is not about establishing who is right or who is wrong, but rather to re-engage HSTA in discussions which can lead to a resolution of the issues that separate us.”

The state has also formally communicated its intent to negotiate with HSTA for the next contract period beginning July 1, 2013.

On Aug. 20, the HSTA Board of Directors voted to agree to pursue seeking the help of the Federal Mediator.

Abercrombie stated: “This is a step forward, by both sides, to find a solution that will resolve our differences for the sake of our students and school teachers.”


Why is the January 2012 proposal considered invalid?

In January 2012, HSTA members voted down this tentative agreement. HSTA presented a new proposal to the state in February, and the state then made a settlement offer in March. The January proposal is therefore invalid and a new proposal is on the table.

Despite this, on May 23, HSTA President Wil Okabe informed Abercrombie that teachers voted on the rejected January agreement in what HSTA called a “ratification vote.”

The governor has stated that when HSTA returns to collective bargaining, the results of the vote will be seriously considered.

Why are teacher performance evaluations important?

An effective teacher is the most critical factor in a student’s success in school, next to family characteristics. The research is definitive; when low-income students have three effective teachers in a row, they “catch up” academically with their middle-income peers. Conversely, three ineffective teachers consecutively harms children’s academic future.

Hawaii’s teachers and school leaders are the state’s most valuable assets toward improving outcomes for children. The state is committed to making the necessary changes in providing the best learning environment for our teachers and students.

This includes a robust evaluation to trigger rewards for effective educators; remediation for marginal, ineffective or unsatisfactory educators; identification of highly effective individuals for leadership roles; and equitable distribution of effective educators.

Is the implementation of performance evaluations infringing on teachers’ collective bargaining rights?

Collective bargaining plays an important role in implementation of a performance management system. However, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) 89-9(d) does not include the employer’s right to evaluate employees in mandatory collective bargaining subjects. The law expressly provides that “excluded from the subjects of negotiation are… (2)… standard of work and the nature and contents of examination.” Additionally, the law already provides for an evaluation of teachers and educational officers “at least once a year on the basis of efficiency, ability and other criteria as the department shall determine (HRS 302A-638).”

Will teacher evaluations be fair?

The governor agrees with teachers that evaluations must be fair and objective. The state proposes to address the evaluation collaboratively. The tentative agreement not ratified by teachers had included the state DOE’s commitment to professional collaboration with teachers and HSTA in the development and implementation of the performance-based evaluation tools.

Effective evaluation results require meaningful feedback in order for teachers to improve teaching and learning. Quality evaluation results in better feedback for improvement to those being evaluated and achieves student growth.

The current terms continue previous contract provisions for due process in case of unfair evaluations. This addressed grievances, performance judges, tenured teachers and arbitration. The tentative agreement between the state and HSTA, not ratified by teachers, would have continued these protections in cases where teachers believed they had received an unfair, adverse evaluation.

Are there any models for effective teacher performance evaluations?

The state DOE is conducting a two-year pilot program currently involving 81 schools to ensure that a future statewide performance evaluation program is well-designed, fair and objective. Teacher leaders chose the observation tool and provide ongoing feedback about the effectiveness of the tool for improving teaching and learning as well as the evaluation operations.

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.

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”?

The state and HSTA had been engaged in negotiations for many 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.

Faced with no agreement and no counter offer, implementation of the “last, best, and final” offer was the only recourse available to begin the school year on time. Tentative agreements had been reached, and these were included in the offer.

Since then, a new six-year tentative contract was negotiated with HSTA in good faith by the state. This tentative agreement was unanimously approved by the HSTA executive board in early January; however, the contract failed ratification by HSTA membership on Jan. 19, 2012. Governor has since invited HSTA President Wil Okabe to provide a proposal acceptable to teachers.

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.

The state is committed to making the necessary changes in providing the best learning environment for our teachers and students. As Abercrombie said in his State of the State address, the state will be using all management, administrative, legislative and legal tools at its disposal to implement an evaluation system that not only measures but achieves student growth; turns around low-performing schools; and supports teachers in increasing their effectiveness.

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 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?

The description of terms being implemented for July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2013, can be found here.

How will ongoing negotiations with HSTA affect the state’s position with securing the federal Race to the Top grant?

Hawaii is still in the running for the Race to the Top. However, in its Dec. 21, 2011, letter placing the state’s Race to the Top grant on “high risk status,” the U.S. Department of Education identified “ongoing delays in finalizing master and supplemental contracts between HSTA and the State have impacted the state’s ability to make progress” as a major concern.

Since then, in response to an early January tentative agreement between the state and HSTA – which contained a description of the performance evaluation on effectiveness and tied the evaluation to increases in salary – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan congratulated Hawaii for “a major breakthrough.”

Although disappointed by the HSTA’s failure to ratify the tentative agreement, Abercrombie said in his most recent State of the State address: “We must continue our focus on our children and students’ performance. We cannot wait any longer. We wanted to cross the Race to the Top finish line side-by-side with the HSTA. Make no mistake we will cross that finish line. Our students deserve no less.”

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