Senate, House committees unanimously approve PD bills

The education committees in the state Senate and House unanimously advanced proposals this week that could restore 21 hours of job-embedded professional development for public and charter school teachers.

Last year, the employer insisted on cutting that important benefit out of the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s contract, amounting to a pay reduction of nearly 1.5% annually.

State Sen. Dru Kanuha (D, Kona, Ka’u) introduced SB3209, which would appropriate money to restore paid, on-the-job professional development for teachers, because, as the bill said, “the Legislature believes that it is incumbent upon the state to provide professional development for teachers to encourage retention and cultivate a culture of empowerment among teachers and principals.”

In the state House, Speaker Scott Saiki introduced HB 2129 at the request of Gov. David Ige as part of the governor’s package of bills this year. The proposal appropriates $16.6 million to restore on-the-job professional development.

The House proposal reads in part, “In the collectively-bargained agreement between the Hawaii State Board of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association that expired on June 30, 2021, there was a memorandum of understanding that allowed for 21 additional hours to be added to the teachers’ workday without students. Those twenty-one hours were to be used for job-embedded professional development to provide benefits, including a formalized structure for organizing training and learning time, reducing the need for substitute teachers, and eliminating teacher absences from classes for training. However, the memorandum of understanding expired on June 30, 2021, and because funding was not available, the memorandum of understanding was not renewed.”

The Senate Education Committee passed its bill unanimously Monday, while the House Education Committee approved its proposal Thursday afternoon with no objections.

In written testimony supporting the proposals, HSTA president Osa Tui, Jr. said, “​​Now that our economic outlook is much better, the HIDOE is able to negotiate with HSTA and bring back the 21 hrs. for professional development for teachers that were not included in this last contract. As we all know, teachers not only want the professional development, they need the time to complete it, and they should also be compensated for their valuable time as well.”

Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi told the Senate Education Committee Monday he and the Hawaii State Department of Education support the proposal.

“This will restore the 21 professional development hours that were previously not granted due to the reduction in funds that resulted from the pandemic,” Hayashi testified.

“Restoration of the 21 PD hours acknowledges and fulfills the department’s previously stated intent to reinstate this development tool for teachers when the requisite funding became available. Responsive capacity building is a critical statewide strategy in the department’s plans to recover from the pandemic and professional development is an essential component of this strategy,” Hayashi added.

HSTA Teacher Lobbyist Laverne Moore told senators, “This is a way to retain teachers.”

“If you’re asking us to do professional development, you need to pay us for it. It is extra time on our part,” said Moore, who is a special education teacher at McKinley High School

“It’s in the best interest of teachers. We need this in our contract,” she testified.

At a House Education Committee hearing Thursday, Moore said, “What is great about this 21 hours embedded professional development is that the teachers get to choose with their administration the training that is needed for them to do a better job.”

“This is a means of retaining our highly qualified teachers,” Moore added.

During the House hearing, House Education Vice Chair Jeanne Kapela asked Hayashi, the interim superintendent, “Does that violate federal ARPA relief requirements, having taken that 21 hours out?” referring to the federal American Rescue Plan Act approved by Congress and President Joe Biden that prohibited entities that use the federal pandemic funding from reducing their public employees’ pay.

“I can get back to you on that question,” Hayashi answered. “I’m not sure on the answer on that, but I can definitely get that answer to you.”

Besides Kahuna, 12 other senators co-introduced the Senate proposal, including Senate Education Chair Michelle Kidani, Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz, and Senate Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair Gil Keith-Agaran. The other senators who co-introduced the bill are: Kurt Fevella, Jarrett Keohokalole, Chris Lee, Sharon Moriwaki, Joy San Buenaventura, Roslyn Baker, Mike Gabbard, Gil Riviere and Glenn Wakai.

The Senate and House measures call for funding for professional development to become available starting July 1, the beginning of the state’s next fiscal year. Should the funding be restored, the HSTA will negotiate terms of the 21 hours of PD with the employer.

In December, HIDOE asked Gov. David Ige to restore funding for 21 hours of job-embedded professional development, which began in the 2013-2014 school year.

In January, Ige proposed a similar bill, SB3097, appropriating $16.6 million to restore job-embedded teacher professional development.

Senate Education Committee Chair Michelle Kidani said she plans to combine the language of both bills, which the committee approved with no objections Monday.

The proposal next goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for further consideration. The House measure will be referred to the House Finance Committee and the House Labor and Tourism Committee.