It is long overdue to settle the teachers’ contract. Making them grovel over less than a 2% increase (when health care costs are factored in), while at the same time proposing an expensive new preschool program is breathtakingly insulting. This reinforces the belief among teachers that they are not appreciated and they are made the perennial whipping boys for all of the systemic shortcomings that produce public dissatisfaction. The teachers are by and large dedicated professionals who feel underappreciated and this preschool maneuver by the Governor offers them solid evidence that they are indeed taken for granted.
I have spoken to many teachers and while pay is an issue, another important issue is that they are also suffering from a morale problem. Aside from antidotal discussion with teachers, one need only look at our absenteeism rate as documented in a report by the Center for American Progress. Written and released in November 2012, it showed about half of Hawaii teachers had more than 10 absences, the second-highest rate in the nation. Or, one could look at our teacher attrition numbers (excluding retirements), we lose about 10% of our full complement each year; the total annual costs associated with teacher turnover in Hawaii alone, excluding retirements, is estimated to be $23,895.228.00 per annum according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. Will Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said “there’s no question” that teacher absences affect student learning. One can also safely assume that high teacher turnover, particularly at our “at risk” schools, lowers our student achievement outcomes. Both of these are indicators of poor morale and lack of job satisfaction.
Morale is affected by many things. However, we know what needs to be done. We must include more professional mentoring time for teachers. Increased planning time is needed because, although we have curriculum standards, we have no standard curriculum. We can reduce their workload by enforcing a hard cap on the number of students per classroom. Teachers need to have a say in school policy. And finally, they need to believe that the school (and Parents) stands with them, shoulder to shoulder, when dealing with problematic student behavior.
In return, the teachers will gladly accept reasonable evaluation standards. They want to be measured so that they can improve as professionals and root out the teachers who do not perform. The loss of good teachers is devastating to the taxpayers, schools, educators, students and the communities that they serve. We need to pay them what they are worth and grant them a 4% raise, and address the morale issues.
The time to settle is now.
Article on the Hawaii Reporter on Feb 20, 2013 http://www.hawaiireporter.com/it-is-time-to-settle-the-teachers-contract/123