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Teacher pay bills pass final state House committee

HSTA priority bills clear House Finance Committee to full House, Senate votes  

Related: ​The Fix is In: Unions Select Green-Luke as Your Next Governor, LG

News Release from HSTA, April 1, 2022

The Hawaii State Teachers Association’s top priority bills, including those that would pay teachers based on their years of service, secure funding for shortage differentials, and reinstate 21 hours of job-embedded professional development, cleared a large milestone Friday when the important state House Finance Committee unanimously voted to advance them.

“This has been a long, long journey. We’ve been here advocating for these improvements since 2020, before the pandemic hit,” said HSTA President Osa Tui, Jr. “It was great today to have members of our Board of Directors and our Government Relations Committee in person to give their stories to make sure that we can put a face to all of these concerns.

“We’re thrilled that our bills have finally made it through their fifth and final committee meeting,” Tui continued. “We are grateful for the support of our lawmakers — House leadership, Senate leadership, the Finance Committee and its chair, Rep. Sylvia Luke. [Senate Education Committee chair] Sen. Michelle Kidani observed the proceedings today, and it just shows that she supports this 100%.”

Next, the House and Senate will have to agree on the final language of the bills before they go to a full floor vote in both the House and the Senate.

Compression pay bill receives green light by Finance Committee, chair promises support of House, Senate

Senate Bill 2819 SD2 HD2 would guarantee that teachers in Hawaii, like their counterparts around the United States, have their salaries adjusted based on their years of experience. If signed into law, more than 8,000 of our members would see corrections in their salaries to help keep them in the profession longer. The bill would also remove the class VII salary cap, which would allow more classes to be negotiated during collective bargaining and incentivize veteran teachers to take professional development courses to reclassify.

Related post: What is salary compression?

In his written testimony, HSTA President Tui asked lawmakers to approve funding for the measure.

“In Hawai‘i, teacher turnover is high,” Tui wrote. “Chronic teacher turnover, in turn, forces the department of education to rely on emergency hires and long-term substitute teachers, who are not licensed teachers, to fill vacancies resulting in thousands of students each day in a class without a licensed teacher.

“We have to do more to encourage educators, especially those who have years and even decades of experience, to remain in the classroom. This proposal is part of a multi-phased plan to ensure that all of our keiki, regardless of where they live, what their special needs are or their ethnicity, are taught by highly qualified licensed teachers,” Tui added.

Members of HSTA’s Board of Directors and Government Relations Committee filled the room and the hallway outside Friday’s hearing wearing “Red for Ed” in support of the bills.

Lisa Morrison, a teacher at Maui High School and HSTA’s secretary-treasurer, testified before the committee, “It’s vital for teachers to have a living wage and stability that comes from financial certainty.

“Passing this bill will bring increased stability to thousands of teachers so they can stay in the public teaching profession and in Hawaii, and just as importantly, this will allow some to be able to give up their second job, and in some cases their third job, in favor of spending time with students and preparing for their work with students,” Morrison said.

Ashley Olson, teacher at Lahainaluna High, told the committee she would retire if the bill didn’t pass.

“This bill is not all about me, but I want to give you a face. I want to show you the face of someone who ain’t sticking around for an extra second,” Olson said.

“If I cannot achieve a career rate at 30 years, if I can’t expect to be able to retire in the state that I’ve dedicated my entire adult life teaching children to… I wanted to give you a face. Happy April Fool’s Day. Again, it’s not a joke, and if this bill doesn’t go through, I’ll invite you all to my retirement party on April 2, 2024.”

House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke said, “It looks like both the Department of Education and the Board of Education are both in strong support, and I know the governor himself is in strong support. So you know, this is the year to do it. And I think both the House and the Senate are committed to putting funding in the budget to make this happen.”

Committee members unanimously passed the measure after dozens of educators and education stakeholders testified in support.

View: Bill status | Written testimony

Proposal to continue shortage differentials advances

SB 2820 SD2 HD1 would appropriate funds for various teacher differentials to help address labor shortages in the areas of special education, hard-to-staff geographic locations, and Hawaiian language immersion programs.

Mike Landes, a social studies teacher at Lahainaluna High and HSTA Maui Chapter president, explained that the shortage differentials have significantly improved the situation at his West Maui school.

“Veteran colleagues have chosen to delay retirement and are continuing to use their experience and expertise to help guide their students and our school,” Landes said.

“We’ve actually started a couple of years in a row now with full teaching slates at our schools, which is something that had not happened for years and years and years,” Landes stated, crediting the differentials.

Tui raised the issue of educational equity in his oral testimony, saying that “the geographic hard-to-fill shortage differentials are helping to recruit and retain teachers in areas that have students who have just as much right to highly qualified educators as any other student throughout the state. This is helping to fulfill that need for equity.”

View: Bill status | Written testimony

Lawmakers approve of reinstating job-embedded professional development hours

During last year’s contract negotiations, 21 hours of job-embedded professional development were removed due to budget cuts, resulting in a 1.5% pay reduction for teachers. SB 3209 SD2 HD1 would restore those hours, providing teachers the chance to hone their skillset while being compensated for conducting work activities outside of regular working hours.

Nimitz Elementary teacher and HSTA Vice President Logan Okita testified in support of the crucial need to restore the 21 hours of job-embedded professional development.

“After benefitting from the additional 21 hours of job-embedded professional development for eight years, not having those hours to rely on for collaboration, data analysis, and professional development made it difficult to have the time needed to discuss student needs, make changes to curriculum maps, and analyze data to address student learning needs,” Okita stated.

“This was the year that schools needed that time the most,” she said.

View: Bill status | Written testimony

Menstrual equity bill moves closer to law

The House Finance Committee also heard SB 2821 SD2, which would provide free, quality menstrual products to students in Hawaii public schools. Should the measure become law, Hawaii would be the sixth state nationwide to provide free period products on campus.

The proposal, in its various forms, has been making its way through the Legislature since February 2020, when it was first introduced, and three years later has gained considerable support from lawmakers, fellow teachers, students, and nonprofit organizations.

During the hearing, more than a dozen students testified live at the state Capitol in support of the bill under the supervision of Ilima Intermediate School teacher Sarah “Mili” Milianta-Laffin, a fierce champion of ending period poverty.

Ilima 8th-grader Isabel King testified before the committee, “Learning, cooperation, knowledge, and growth. These things are effervescent in a school. But what about shame and secrecy and blood?

“Students with periods all over the state are trying to maintain their menstrual health with things like napkins and diapers and leaves, those things that grow out of the dirt,” King said.

Many other students and community supporters spoke to the shame and embarrassment associated with menstruating, and pleaded with lawmakers to end period poverty in Hawaii for future generations.

Committee members unanimously passed the bill with an effective date of July 1. Luke, the finance chair, said that the House and Senate will request how much money will need to be allocated for the proposal to “make sure no school is left behind.”

View: Bill status | Written testimony

Related: ​The Fix is In: Unions Select Green-Luke as Your Next Governor, LG

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