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Education Funding

In Big Setback for Race to Top, Hawaii Teachers Reject Contract

By Michele McNeil — January 20, 2012 1 min read

Hawaii is already in big trouble with the U.S. Department of Education for failing to hit key milestones the state promised to deliver as part of its $75 million Race to the Top prize. At stake is roughly $72 million that’s left of the state’s award, which federal officials are threatening to take back.

Things were looking up in the Aloha State, when earlier this month the state and its teachers’ union reached a tentative contract deal to end the stalemate and put in place a new teacher-evaluation system based in part on student growth—a key component of its Race to the Top plan.

Hawaii’s rank-and-file teachers had other ideas. They voted yesterday by a 2-1 margin to reject the contract deal, which also would have reversed a 5 percent pay cut. The Honolulu Civil Beat news site, which has been providing great on-the-ground coverage of the Race to Top woes and contract battles, aptly put it this way: “Hawaii Teachers Vote A Stunning Blow For Race to the Top.”

I’d say! (Apparently, this was the first time in the union’s 44-year history that it rejected a contract deal that its board had approved, according to Civil Beat.)

An online message from Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe didn’t indicate what the union’s next steps are—although he mentioned that options could be to return to the bargaining table, take a strike vote, or continue legal challenges.

Within the next several weeks, federal officials will visit Hawaii in search of “clear and compelling” evidence that it has made, or is making, substantial progress, on its Race to the Top promises. This is not the kind of evidence they want to see. In fact, if nothing changes, the department will likely have an easy decision to make.