LIHUE — Gov. David Ige said Tuesday that teachers have the most important job in state government.
“I believe in school empowerment and really entrusting that those closest to the children should be making all of the decisions.,” he said to about 30 teachers during a talk story session at the Kauai High School library.
Jeri Yamagata, Hawaii State Teachers Association Kauai Chapter president, presented the governor with a plaque of appreciation for his support of public education.
“We wanted to thank him for all he has done positively for our schools, keiki and teachers,” said Michael Kline, Kauai chapter HSTA vice president. “He established the Governor’s ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) Team, which created the Hawaii blueprint for public education. It will empower schools and develop more innovation and creativity in our students.”
Ige committed to a four-year contract with the union to have time to look at real issues that make a difference in the classroom, including requirements of special needs educators, retention of teachers, securing pensions and funding schools, Kline said.
“He bargained directly with our HSTA negotiation’s team in providing our teachers with a contract that shows us a great deal of respect for what we do for Hawaii’s children,” Kline said. “He negotiated a contract with us to the early hours of the morning on a couple of days showing that he really believes in teachers.”
The HSTA represents about 13,700 public school teachers.
“I’m certainly committed to talking about those issues outside of negotiations, so that we can make real progress in those areas,” Ige said. “I just really know that teachers spend so much more and give so much to our children than can’t be measured in a paycheck.”
Ige stressed the need to find ways to provide mentorship, professional development and design models that work in other situations to get all schools to perform better.
“We also need to get more pre-K programs out into the community,” Ige said. “Obviously what happens in pre-K impacts kindergarten and impacts the system all the way through.”
Teachers asked the governor about acquiring services for special needs children, free and reduced lunches for students, obtaining funding from federal and state grants, and guaranteeing pension payment.
“We’re very well positioned to ensure that the pension and health fund benefit is sustainable going forward,” Ige said. “The actions we have already taken will save $1.6 billion dollars over next 20 years, and we’ll continue to make that a priority.”
Teachers and association members applauded his efforts.
“The students you have today will end up being senator or governor, you never know, but it happens over and over and over again,” he added. “I really appreciate what teachers do. Thank you.”