- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - The union representing Hawaii’s public school teachers will be negotiating with the state for a pay increase.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association told members in an email that the union will return to the bargaining table in March to discuss additional salary and compensation for the remaining two years of the contract.

The union is exercising a so-called reopener clause in the labor contract that covers to 2013 to 2017, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (https://ow.ly/IgR8R) reported Saturday. The four-year contract restored a 5 percent pay cut made in 2009, followed by increases of at least 3 percent.

The union secured the reopener clause to negotiate for increased pay and benefits once a salary study is completed. The study, paid for by the union and the state Department of Education, is expected to be submitted to legislators next week. It was conducted by Denver-based APA Consulting.

Joan Lewis, vice president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association and a Kapolei High School teacher, said the study shows that Hawaii’s public school teachers are among the lowest-paid in the country.

A recent report by the National Council on Teacher Quality said Hawaii’s $43,759 starting salary amounts to $25,879 when adjusted for the state’s high cost of living.

“As valuable professionals who provide quality education for our students, teachers deserve proper support and compensation so that we may continue to attract and retain a high quality education workforce for the state,” union President Wil Okabe said in the email to the teachers.

Salary is tied to the state’s difficulties in retaining teachers, Lewis said.

“Too often our Hawaii public schools are a residency program for teachers,” she said. “We’re giving them experience to go elsewhere. We’re sending very well-trained teachers elsewhere because we can’t retain them.”

Lewis wouldn’t disclose what the additional benefits might be that the union would be seeking during negotiations.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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