What’s Next For The State, Teachers

After all of the sign-waving and horn-honking, it looks like Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) has a new contract with the state. It took two years of negotiating and a whole lot of politicking behind the scenes to pull it off.

Now comes the most difficult part of the deal: waiting for ratification by its 17,500 members. People seem to think ratification is automatic, but remember the last time the members went to the ratification table to vote? They turned down the state’s offer.

By all accounts, it’s a good contract for HSTA. The state will restore the 5 percent pay cut teachers took when the state imposed the current “last, best and final” contract in 2011.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the deal would include a 3 percent increase that would take effect in the first year of the contract; those already at the top of the HSTA pay scale would receive a $1,500 bonus and 3.2 percent increase in the final year of the contract.

It almost sounds too good to be true. But after two years of agonizing negotiations, maybe it was worth it, if the membership ratifies the tentative deal. According to the Council of Revenues, the state’s fiscal condition has improved to the point where it can afford the multimillion-dollar settlement. It’s easy to be a little skeptical about projections from the Council on Revenues – after all, it has been wrong on several occasions in the past.

Still a big question mark is how the teacher-evaluation process will work when tied to pay raises. That all will be worked out, because it is something all taxpayers have a right to expect. The latest mantra regarding government employees is: “You get what you pay for.” If that is true, then the taxpayers will want to know what they’re paying for.

There are a couple of things to expect. First, you can bet your Democratic Party primary ballot that the HSTA contract will be a hot political issue. Second, you also can bet that the other public unions are working their numbers right now. If what the Council of Revenues says is right, there must be additional funds for other public unions, too. Also, expect a provision in the contract for HSTA to drop the complaint before the Labor Board over the governor’s “last, best offer,” if the teachers ratify the new contract.

In my humble opinion, to not get a legal ruling on the constitutionality of the “last, best offer” is not a good idea, simply because the governor will use the ploy again on another public union.

April 17 can’t come soon enough for all the politicians in town waiting to file their election papers.