Hawaii unlikely to reach deal to end this year's teacher furloughs
By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Education Writer
Today's legislative deadline to address the four remaining public school furlough days this school year is likely to pass with no compromise agreement between Gov. Linda Lingle, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and education officials.
The likelihood of an agreement to end the remaining furloughs for the current school year is slim, Lingle said yesterday, but she is confident that the state Legislature will take action on the furloughs for next school year.
No new talks among the union, BOE or governor were scheduled.
Meanwhile, state sheriff's deputies last night arrested two protesters and cited eight others on Day 7 of a sit-in in the governor's office.
University of Hawai'i students Michael Doyle and Carrie Lau were led away in handcuffs after officials warned that anyone cited for a third trespassing violation, as Doyle and Lau were, risked arrest.
Earlier yesterday, Lingle dismissed today's deadline for a furlough agreement imposed by state Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawa), chairman of the House Finance Committee, saying, "there is no deadline."
If the Legislature wanted to, she said, it could set aside an unspecified dollar amount from the state's Hurricane Relief Fund to address furlough days. But lawmakers are reluctant to do that, saying it amounts to a blank check during uncertain economic times.
"My impression is that the union has taken such a hard position that it would be unlikely (an agreement) could possibly occur. They simply insist that everybody be brought back. They've sent out letters talking about union solidarity, and not just within their union," Lingle said.
She made her statement in a press conference yesterday morning, after inviting in a handful of parent protesters who have been conducting a sit-in at her office for the past seven days.
The parents sat through the question-and-answer with the media, holding their hands up in hopes the governor would address them directly. She did not take questions from the parents.
She also warned protesters yesterday that sheriff's deputies have been directed to arrest anyone who stays in the office past the end of the business day.
That came to pass last night. At 8:22 p.m., minutes after a television cameraman left, a sheriff's deputy entered the office and told the protesters that they had to leave. When none of them left, about a half-dozen sheriffs showed up to issue trespassing citations.
Three women and a man were issued their first simple trespassing citation, while four women received a second citation for second-degree criminal trespassing, a petty misdemeanor. After the eight were processed, sheriffs asked Lau and Doyle to stand and they were escorted out of the office.
Just outside the door, the two were quickly handcuffed and led to an elevator, where they were taken to the Capitol's basement parking area and placed in sheriff's cars. Hanusz said Lau and Doyle were to be taken to Halawa Correctional Facility to be processed. She said she was assured by reality TV star Duane "Dog" Chapman that he would bail the two out of jail.
Minutes before being arrested, Doyle said he was prepared to go to jail.
"I'm just irritated and frustrated and tired of all of this," Doyle said.
Garrett Toguchi, chairman of the state Board of Education, said Lingle's statements amount to her giving up on furlough days for the current school year. The BOE and the HSTA reached a $92 million supplemental agreement earlier this month to end the four remaining furlough days this year and the 17 days scheduled for next year.
Lingle has said the HSTA-BOE plan is too costly, by about $30 million, because it brings back all the public school system's employees. She proposes bringing back only "essential" employees — mostly teachers and school-level support staff.
Toguchi said Lingle is standing in the way of resolving the furlough situation.
"We have an agreement. By law, we are the parties — the BOE and the superintendent — ... authorized to come to a supplemental agreement with the HSTA. We did that. We have a lawful agreement with the union. Her only role is to fund education. Her role is not to dictate to us how to operate the schools," Toguchi said.
"She has no authority in the supplemental agreement, period. ... She either releases the money or she doesn't."
Toguchi also criticized an open letter from the governor to parent protesters, where the governor wrote: "We should not tolerate perpetuating a system that results in situations such as Nanakuli (High & Intermediate) where only 14 percent of the children are proficient in arithmetic."
Toguchi said her statement does not recognize the good things happening in the school system.
"Obviously there are weaknesses in the system we need to strengthen, and instructional time is one of them. She is standing directly in the way of the kids in Nanakuli who need that time," he said.
"She also fails to recognize the number of schools that are doing well and the number of teachers who have taken it upon themselves to get nationally certified," Toguchi said.
The governor also said yesterday that she was confident the state Legislature will set aside money to take care of the 17 furlough days scheduled for next school year.
"The Legislature will find a way. ... They will take some action to make money available for next year. I have no doubt about that," she said.
Lawmakers gave officials two more days to reach an accord, beyond the original legislative deadline set for Monday. Oshiro has said that the most recent agreement between the HSTA and the state Board of Education has a deadline of April 21 for $24.5 million to be released so that teachers can return to the classroom on April 23.
If no agreement is reached today, Oshiro has said, the Legislature will only be able to appropriate money to restore the 17 furlough days on next year's school calendar.
HSTA president Wil Okabe has said the union has already come to a $92 million supplemental agreement with the state Board of Education and that there is no need for additional talks with the governor.
Parent protesters said yesterday they were disappointed in Lingle's responses and planned to continue their sit-in, even with the threat that protesters could be arrested.
"It was a one-way conversation," said Jill Tao, a parent with Save Our Schools Hawaii. "We're only here because we know she holds the power of the purse, she's the one who can release the emergency funds to get rid of the furloughs."