COMMENTARY | Hawaii's school teachers have their work cut out for them. Hawaii's kids continue to lag behind national averages on standardized tests for reading, science, and math. The school teachers have been working without a contract for more than 17 months due to multiple failed contract negotiations.
Out of frustration, and in order to try and force a resolution to the standoff, some schools have adopted the "work to the rule" concept. They work from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., and that's it.
One of the issues with the contract negotiations is teacher salary. On the surface it looks like the teachers are well paid, with a starting salary of about $45,000 per year. But upon closer examination, all is not as it seems. In a comparison among the 50 states based on a "salary comfort index," Hawaii's teachers ranked 50 out of 50. This ranking means that, based on the salary earned, Hawaii's teachers' standard of living is the worst out of all 50 states.
Adding to teachers' financial difficulties are the out-of-pocket expenses they incur for school supplies. In a 2011 national poll, 67 percent of teachers reported that they get less than $500 per year for supplies and 58 percent reported spending more than $300 per year on supplies. One Hawaii teacher reported spending $1,000 out-of-pocket per year for school supplies.
With the day-to-day stressors already placed on Hawaii's school teachers, having to work without a contract does not help anyone. Hawaii's government and the teachers' union must find a way to negotiate a suitable contract so that the teachers can focus on what is truly important: teaching.
-- Honolulu, Hawaii