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HONOLULU (AP) _ Thousands of elementary and high school students returned to class Thursday, three weeks after Hawaii's public education system was shut down by a pair of strikes.

The state's 13,000 public school teachers, who set up picket lines April 5, had returned to work Wednesday after ratifying a four-year contract that includes higher pay for those with advanced degrees.

The strike cost 182,000 schoolchildren 14 days of instruction. A separate strike by University of Hawaii faculty that also began April 5 ended with a two-year contract agreement last week.

Under their new contract, public school teachers will receive more than 16 percent in salary increases, plus bonuses, according to Hawaii State Teachers Association President Karen Ginoza.

Teachers with masters degrees and professional diplomas will get a 3 percent differential. Teachers who earn doctoral degrees will receive a 6 percent differential.

Teachers, who earn between $29,000 and $58,000 a year, had argued they should be paid more because of the state's cost of living, estimated at nearly one-third higher than on the mainland.

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