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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lingle should have stopped this sideshow

The sad malaise that has settled over the furlough-crippled public school system has taken on an uglier complexion with the standoff between Gov. Linda Lingle and an ad-hoc group of parents that has been occupying her office.

As settlement mechanisms go, sit-ins are weak. The Save Our Schools Hawai'i protest is a publicity stunt, one that will do little to produce a solution, now that both sides' positions have hardened so much.

And if SOS really wanted a dialogue with Lingle, it showed poor judgment to adopt an accusatory, demanding tone.

That said, the governor could have and should have defused the situation long before now. She would not have been able to deliver a settlement, as the group asked, by a mid-April deadline.

But she should have held a face-to-face meeting with the parents, however brief, instead of getting so defensive and downright rude in her insistence to blow them off.

On Sunday, she issued a testy letter in which she calls out the parents as "misguided and misdirected" and asserts her "offense" at the suggestion in the parents' letter that she's among governors "who have used public schools as political tools."

Maybe the governor has reason to bristle, but it would have been so much more impressive had she simply gone out into the lobby of her office to speak with the parents. She could have outlined her position calmly, rather than coldly, and perhaps helped the group recognize the complexities of the dispute.

Unfortunately, her response reflects the intransigence on both sides of these dysfunctional negotiations. It does her no credit to assume the role of an aggrieved party to a labor dispute, complaining about being misunderstood.

Lingle is the state's top elected official. Facing her critics directly would have been a show of courage and the leadership people expect of their governor.

It also would graciously allow the parents to save face and go home, where they have many other responsibilities.

It would be a relief, too, for everyone else witnessing this pointless debacle.