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Hawaii teachers union turns down contract offer

Becky Bohrer, Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii's teachers union has rejected the state's latest contract offer, citing concerns with pay and teacher evaluation provisions.

The two sides have tentatively agreed to resume bargaining talks next month in what has become a contentious, drawn-out fight.

In the latest offer, the state Department of Education proposed raises of 2 percent a year during the two-year contract period for all teachers and restoration of the 5-percent cut in teacher pay instituted last year. It said its offer also included additional support, compensation and incentives for performance, such as having the department pay fees for teachers renewing their professional licenses.

"We made a comprehensive and fair offer and remain committed to reaching a contract with HSTA," state schools' superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said in a news release. "We remain committed to negotiating to reach a resolution that results in a ratified contract."

HSTA stands for the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which represents thousands of teachers. Hawaii is the 10th largest school system in the nation, and the only statewide district in the country.

Teachers have been working under a last, best and final offer after their last contract expired in June 2011. Prior to meeting Monday, when the latest offer was rejected, the two sides met last week in what was described as a productive get-together.

Union president Wil Okabe said in a statement that the $49 million in new compensation that the state offered "paled in comparison to the over $100 million in wage losses teachers struggled to endure as they helped the State over the past 3 1/2 years move towards economic recovery."

The union was being offered 2-percent raises while members of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly had been guaranteed 3-percent increases, he said.

Okabe also raised concerns about a teacher evaluation system.

The two sides agreed on many points, but "rather than continue working on the tough issues together, the State in an 'all or nothing' position, withdrew its proposal requiring the parties to start once again," he said.