Teaching Profession

Hawaii Grapples With Teacher-Pact Impasse

By Stephen Sawchuk — October 16, 2012 1 min read

Hawaii teachers have still not come to an agreement with the state over a new contract, and some commentators think the impasse could lead to a strike.

Officials from the state and the Hawaii State Teachers Association had been in mediation with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service when the union reportedly walked away, saying it was limited to 10 days.

Teachers are working under a “last, best, and final” offer from July 2011 that the state imposed after the union’s board rejected an agreement struck by its negotiators and the state.

Among other provisions, teachers took a 5 percent pay reduction. The union filed a complaint with the state labor-relations board, which hasn’t yet issued a ruling.

The two sides took another whack at reaching a contract in January, but the teachers didn’t ratify the agreement. In May, the union had members revote on that tentative contract, but this time the state said the vote wasn’t valid.

The contract dispute has put Hawaii’s $75 million federal Race to the Top grant in jeopardy, since the situation prevents the state from securing a new educator-evaluation system.

Under the Race to the Top education redesign program, winning states must revise those systems to include consideration of student achievement, among other factors. Hawaii is unique in having a single, statewide school district.

The Hawaii grant is currently on “high risk” status with the U.S. Department of Education. State officials, meanwhile, have outlined progress on a teacher-evaluation pilot program. (“Latest States in Hunt for NCLB Flexibility Include Rural Players,” Sept. 26, 2012.)

Separately, the state has filed an application for a waiver from some provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. In that application, the state said that it has met the federal Education Department’s condition that it have a teacher-evaluation system that incorporates student academic growth. The teacher-evaluation component has proved challenging for rural states in particular.

Union-watcher Mike Antonucci points out that, just as in the recent Chicago strike, the situation is pitting a prominent Democrat, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, against labor, and notes that Hawaii’s teachers have gone on strike before.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 17, 2012 edition of Education Week as Hawaii at Impasse on Teachers’ Pact

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