Sunday, January 11, 2009

Substitute teachers seek pay parity

More than five years after suing the state to get better pay for substitute teachers, attorneys will press their case for back pay, this time to the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

Three judges of the court -- Corrine Watanabe, Daniel Foley and Katherine Leonard -- will hear oral arguments at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Supreme Court courtroom in Aliiolani Hale.

Paul Alston, an attorney representing the substitute teachers seeking more than $25 million in back pay, is fighting for retroactive raises after Circuit Judge Karen Ahn ruled in 2006 that the state Department of Education failed to comply with a 1996 law requiring it to pay substitutes the same daily rate as fulltime teachers.

The Legislature last year passed, and Gov. Linda Lingle signed, a bill that requires the DOE to give substitute teachers the same across-the-board raises that regular teachers, under collective bargaining, get each year. Now it’s just the back pay that’s at issue.

Among other things, the Circuit Court ruled that the state is liable to the substitute teachers for some but not all of the back pay sought by the teachers but doesn’t have to pay interest. The state is liable for contract claims, but is immune from direct claims under sovereign immunity, according to the court.

But the Circuit Court also refused to expand the rights to part-time employees, sparking an appeal. Attorneys for the substitute teachers also appealed rulings on statutes of limitations, tolling, sovereign immunity, pre-judgment interest, class certification and intervention. The state challenges the circuit court's orders allowing a third amended complaint, finding a waiver of sovereign immunity.

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