Public school teachers, supporters wave signs for fair contract

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The Hawaii State Teachers Association continue to rally its members and supporters in recent months in favor of what they consider to be a fair contract.

On Tuesday morning, they waved signs in front of campuses statewide during “Schools Our Keiki Deserve” demonstrations.

They’re calling attention to the issue that key members of the state’s negotiating team have not been present at contract talks. The public teachers’ contract with the state expires June 30.

McKinley High School teacher and negotiating committee member Osa Tui said that things are a standstill right now. “Since we started in August, we’ve only had five meetings so far. This month, we’re fortunate enough to have three, and we hope to have a lot of movement.

“It’s all about attracting and retaining teachers,” he said. “Hundreds of teacher spots are being filled out by longtime substitutes … We really need to fill in those pukas with qualified teachers.”

Natasha Taketa, who now teaches history after teaching music for six years at McKinley, says the pay is a big reason why. She says she spent a few years working two jobs.

“For me, I would love to work for 30 years and finish out teaching because I love to work with kids, and I love music, and hopefully that will be the case,” said Taketa. “But I have seen teachers who have come into the workforce, who were new just like me, and have left the workforce because it is not what they thought it was going to be.”

Tuesday’s demonstrations follows up February’s mass rally at the State Capitol. The union says that after adjusting for Hawaii’s high cost of living, public school teachers are one of the lowest paid in the country and, because of that, the state faces a teacher shortage crisis.

The governor’s chief of staff Mike McCartney released a statement in response later in the afternoon, saying:

The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) Bargaining Unit 5 is one of 14 units whose contracts expire on June 30.

The Board of Education, schools superintendent and the state’s chief negotiator have always been represented at the bargaining table. The chief negotiator will become more involved in discussions with the HSTA once the Council on Revenues makes its revenue forecast on March 13.

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