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Admin vetoes House version of its teacher pay scale amendment

Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale
Bill “goes far beyond the intent” of admin’s request, LT says

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — While he has vetoed a House bill amending current laws on pay scale for Education Department personnel, Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale — on behalf of the governor — emphasized to Fono leaders that the pay hikes for ASDOE teachers remain in effect as of July 1st based on a general memorandum issued by Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga.

The vetoed legislation is the House version of an Administration bill, which seeks to repeal the section of the law that contains the old pay scale for teachers. However, the legislation provided no specific details of the new pay scale and other information.

Therefore the House amended its version — and it was endorsed by the Senate — to include the detailed language of the new American Samoa Department of Education (ASDOE) pay scale and the details shared by Education director, Talauega Dr. Samasoni Asaeli during the House Education hearing last month.  (See Samoa News edition Aug. 27th for details under Fono briefs.)

However, Talaeuga disagrees with the amended House bill (H.B 37-11) which he says amends local statute — sections 16.1001 and 16.1004 of A.S.C.A (American Samoa Code Annotated). In a Sept. 16th letter, Talauega informed Fono leaders that he has vetoed the bill and provided an explanation.

He said the intent of the Administration’s legislation “was to remove a potential inconsistency between the guidance provided by the Governor” in general memorandum 12-21 and A.S.C A section 16.1004. However, he said the House bill “goes far beyond the intent of the administrative request.”

Since A.S.C.A section 16.1004 “only addresses starting salaries based on credentials and experience of teachers without meaningfully addressing normal step increases, the scale only creates minimum salaries,” he explained.

And since the enactment of A.S.C.A section 16.1004, “there have been at least two broad pay adjustments that affected educators,” he further explained.

Therefore, he said the government will continue to pay teachers according to the newly established pay rates based on the governor’s memorandum 121-21 and the newly approved budget for fiscal year 2022.

“To clarify, I am vetoing this bill, but the pay increase for teachers of the Department of Education remains in effect pursuant to general memorandum 121-21, said Talauega who signed the communique to Fono leaders “On behalf of the Governor”.

Lemanu who returned to the territory on Sept. 13th flight from Honolulu is in quarantine along with all passengers on that flight. Last week, he issued a memorandum delegating the authority to Talauega to sign documents on the governor’s behalf.  (See Samoa News edition Sept. 16th for details.)

As previously reported by Samoa News, the governor’s memorandum 121-21, titled “Adoption of New Pay Scale” — listed among other things — pay plans adopted for career service employees, including educators, and the pay plans went into effect on July 1st. It also raises ASG minimum wage to $15,080 per annum. (This works out to $7.25 per hour, which is the current federal minimum wage.)

It was revealed during Fono hearings that the teachers pay increase had gone into affect in May of this year.