Give the kids a place at the table in school contract talks

It’s disappointing that the stalled contract negotiations between the state and public school teachers appear to be focused entirely on pay and benefits, with little discussion of promised reforms to improve student learning.

After the furlough Fridays fiasco, the Legislature tried to mollify angry parents with new laws requiring a minimum of 180 instruction days a year and more hours of the school day devoted to instruction.

In its successful application for a $75 million federal “Race to the Top” grant, the Department of Education and unions representing teachers and principals promised to immediately work toward performance-based contracts for teachers and principals based in large part on improving the poor performance of Hawai‘i  students in standardized national tests.

From what his been disclosed publicly, these issues have not been significantly addressed in negotiations between the state and teachers union, which hit an impasse over the state’s demand that teachers take a 5 percent pay cut and pay a bigger share of their medical premiums.

Nor were these reforms a significant part of earlier state negotiations with the Hawaii Government Employees Association, in which the principals accepted the pay and health insurance terms teachers balked at.

Admittedly, recessionary times that require pay cuts to balance the state budget aren’t the best environment to seek more work and accountability from teachers and principals, but neither is a bad economy a license to abandon promises both sides have made to put a structure in place to better achieve the mission of the public schools.

We always say that the school system in first and foremost about the needs of the kids. When it comes down to brass tacks, however, it always seems to be more about what’s in it for the adults.

I look more closely at the standoff on the teachers contract in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Teachers union should settle contract mess outside of court.”

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3 Comments on “Give the kids a place at the table in school contract talks”

  1. Mike Middlesworth Says:

    Screw the kids. Who cares about them?

  2. Hawaiino Says:


    You raise “curmudgeonous” to an art form!

    You’re right though, whether by default or design, the kids will be screwed if leadership prevails. HSTA’s position is untenable and borderline immoral. Whoever is advising them, or populating their strategy team, has a tin ear and a huge blind spot.
    Best decision by the teachers would be to get back to work and do their best when they get there.

  3. anticoqui Says:

    It’s a good thing that the STATE ‘bosses’ don’t look elsewhere for education system plans. South Korea is hoping to implement an educational system where technology takes over for student-teacher interactions. Students would go at their own pace and have access to educational programs via the Internet; teachers may only be ‘supervisors’ or aides. Sounds somewhat like how that cartoon, The Jetsons, had their boy, Elroy, get his education, eh?

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