HSTA All About Self-interest

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - December 23, 2009

All parties involved in the Hawaii State Teachers Association contract negotiation process should be embarrassed and ashamed of their abject failure, and for the situation in which they have left our state and our children.

Just when you thought you saw the lowest of political brinksmanship, something like this comes along and all you want to do is take a long, hot shower.

There are enough blaming fingers to point for this mess. The Lingle administration, the Board of Education, the Department of Education and HSTA are the players.

Yes, they all deserve a finger pointed at them, but some deserve a bigger finger than the others.


 

The state Legislature did appropriate an adequate amount of money in 2009 to fund public worker salaries. It was a combination of budgetary cuts, debt restructuring and increased tax/fee revenue. But what was not foreseen was the incredible, precipitous drop in state revenues.

What we seem to forget is previous to this latest controversy, the Lingle administration already maneuvered the state through a $2 billion shortfall. Facing a series of Council on Revenues downgraded projections, the governor instituted responsible restrictions on spending.

It was then up to individual entities to make it work.

Some made responsible decisions while others continue to live in a state of denial. The bottom line is we are more than broke. Unlike the feds, we cannot simply print more money or increase a debt ceiling at will. We are constitutionally mandated to produce a balanced budget. Of course, there may be a move in the upcoming session to change that. If successful, it would be the most devastating thing to happen to Hawaii since Jasmine Trias fell short on American Idol.

As a signatory on the negotiated contract settlement with HSTA, the governor is the only one appearing to act like an adult.

Upon learning that furlough days (which have always been the acceptable strategy to deal with cost reduction) would be taken from instructional inventory, the governor delivered a public mea culpa. Lingle admitted, in hindsight, she made a mistake, saying if she had known this was the HSTA/BOE/DOE intent, she would not have given her approval.


But the governor went a step further. When HSTA et al., were having a hissy fit in negotiations, Lingle extended an olive branch in the form of a dollar sign. Compromising and showing good faith in trying to break the impasse, the governor consented to use $50 million from the rainy day fund to restore furloughed days. As of this writing, with the administration putting proposals on the table and HSTA refusing its offers, the stalemate continues and Hawaii’s schoolchildren continue to be the losers.

The stance taken by HSTA (fueled by a misguided attempt to cultivate public sympathy via radio and TV commercials) demonstrates the union’s myopia. HSTA’s very existence is made possible by the taxpaying parents of schoolchildren.

The union leaders and their partners in the DOE/BOE need to act in the best interest of the general public instead of just themselves.

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