HONOLULU - The union representing Hawaii's public school teachers has reached a tentative agreement on a key element of the state's Race to the Top grant that has recently been put in jeopardy because of unsatisfactory progress on promised reforms.
Hawaii State Teachers Association Executive Director Al Nagasako said a tentative agreement was reached Thursday on extended learning time for schools in Nanakuli and Waianae on Oahu, along with Kau, Keaau and Pahoa on the Big Island. The schools are in low-income, low-performing "Zones of School Innovation" targeted by Race to the Top reforms.
The plan calls for one hour more per day, Monday through Thursday, and 12 additional days of teaching training. That would result in about 18 percent more in compensation for the extra time, Nagasako said. Teachers in the zones who don't want the extra time will have the option of transferring.
Union leaders met Friday with principals in Waianae and on the Big Island about the tentative agreement, Nagasako said. Union members in the zones will vote Feb. 27.
State officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
The U.S. Department of Education told the state in December it hadn't made acceptable progress on the comprehensive school reform plan that won Hawaii a four-year, $75 million grant. They also warned Hawaii that it could lose the grant money if it doesn't make progress. Federal officials will visit the islands next month.
Stephen Schatz, Hawaii's assistant superintendent for strategic reform who is overseeing the Race to the Top effort, has said the increased instructional time in the zones has been among the reforms that have been difficult to deliver, largely because of a lack of collective bargaining agreement with the union.
Teachers last month turned down a proposed contract that would have removed a major stumbling block in delivering on promised reforms. The deal would have included moving toward a performance-based compensation system. If the contract had been ratified, a labor dispute against the state would have been dropped and negotiations could have started on promised reforms.
The union is collecting feedback from members on a contract proposal. Nagasako said teachers are telling the union they want more details on how they would be evaluated.
"The next time we have a (tentative agreement), we'll make sure everybody understands everything," he said.