Governor Lingle: still making waves in Hawaii

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More news on the dispute over Hawaii's proposed drug-testing program for teachers. As we previously reported (see December 2007 TQB), Governor Linda Lingle pushed for the controversial drug-testing program to be included in the state's 2007 contract with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, at the same time agreeing to give teachers an 11 percent salary boost. The union says it was forced to sign the contract with the drug-testing provision in order to secure teachers' pay increases.

Since then, about 7 percent of the raise has gone into effect, but the governor's pet program has yet to get a dime of the funding it needs. Hawaii's state board of education voted unanimously in late January not to fund the program. Further, the ACLU is accusing Lingle of threatening to withhold the remainder of the pay raises unless the board kicks in money for teacher drug testing. In a letter to Lingle, the ACLU argues: "Your all-or-nothing interpretation of the labor agreement lacks legal merit. If the Board of Education or any other state entity blocks funding for teacher drug testing, the rest of the contract, including your promise to pay teachers' salaries, remains full-force."

Board members seem to agree, arguing that the two provisions of the contract--pay raises and drug testing--do not depend on one another. According to one board member, the real question is whether money should be "diverted from meaningful programs to pay for a fear-based program." Moreover, the drug testing program has potential constitutional issues, and the ACLU is ready to pounce if the program gets off the ground. Stay tuned.