HONOLULU A union representing Hawaii's school teachers agreed to a new labor contract Tuesday, ending the second of two walkouts that shut down a state's entire public education system for the first time.
Hawaii's 182,000 school children will return to class Thursday for the first time in three weeks. Teachers who lined road sides and picketed school yards for 19 days planned more sign-waving Tuesday but were expected to approve a deal for increased salaries endorsed by their 50-member union board around midnight Monday.
"We're very pleased with the settlement. Our board overwhelmingly ratified it," said Joan Husted, executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Assn.
Union board members, who had arrived at their Honolulu headquarters with bedrolls, declined to discuss the agreement and state officials issued no immediate statements.
The state's 13,000 teachers were expected to return to work today, with classes resuming Thursday. They had been teaching without a contract for two years.
"I think the teachers feel the strike accomplished their goals. If they had to do it again, they would," Husted said.
Hawaii's unique statewide education system was shut down April 5, which also marked the start of a separate labor action against all 10 campuses of the University of Hawaii, idling 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students. That strike ended after 13 days with 3,100 professors and lecturers earning up to 12 percent salary increases over two years.
Hawaii's teachers earn between $29,000 and $58,000 a year. The state ranked 18th among the 50 states in a National Education Assn. list of average 1998-99 salaries, at $40,377 a year.
At the core of both labor disputes is a feeling that Hawaii teachers should earn even more than the national average because of the state's high cost of living, estimated at 20 percent to 30 percent higher than on the mainland.
The union achieved its objectives, including retention bonuses and across-the-board raises, said Karen Ginoza, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Assn.