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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 16, 2010

New plan emerges to eliminate 15 Hawaii teacher furlough days

Advertiser staff writer

Two grassroots parents organizations today released their own plan to reduce Hawaii's public school furloughs, saying it represents a compromise between Gov. Linda Lingle's plan and a supplemental agreement already reached between the state Board of Education and teachers' union.

The plan would eliminate 15 of the remaining 21 furlough days through a combination of money from the Hurricane Relief Fund or other emergency funds and teachers giving up planning days.

Nine days would be eliminated at a cost of $55 million. That figure is based on the $6.1 million a day it costs to run the school system with all employees and operating expenses such as electricity, water and bus transportation.

In addition, teachers would give up six planning days, as they've already voted to do under the current supplemental agreement between the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the BOE.

Six furlough days would be left under the plan developed by Save Our Schools Hawaii and Hawaii Education Matters, which would eliminate all scheduled furlough days up to March 21, 2011. The parents say they hope lawmakers and the next elected governor will resolve the remaining days.

"Given what the governor and others have put on the table and said they are willing to do, this is what we have come up with. We are very hopeful and believe it is a workable solution," said Lois Yamauchi, with SOS Hawaii, whose children attend Manoa Elementary and University Laboratory School.

However, Lingle, in a statement released this afternoon, said the new proposal does not accomplish what most parents want: end the furloughs and return students to the classroom.

"Under this proposal, students, parents, teachers, other school employees, Department of Education officials, legislators and the general public would still be left with the looming uncertainty of the remaining six furlough days in the second half of the next school year," she said.

"Further, this plan once again pits education against other public services, as legislators struggle to find money in 2011 for the myriad of programs operated by the state."

State Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi reiterated that the BOE and HSTA already have come to a legally binding, $92 million supplemental agreement to deal with furloughs. He said he was pleased to see that the parents used the $6.1 million figure in their per-day calculations to run to the school system because it represents bringing all employees back to work.

"It is an endorsement of the proposal we already have with the teachers," Toguchi said. "It's not a plan that I can take to the HSTA and say, 'Let's work out a new deal.'"

He said the plan essentially would amount to funding only part of the supplemental agreement with the teachers' union, which might be possible.

"Because it's only partial funding, we would have to go back to the union," he said.

"It is critical that we address the furlough situation with a comprehensive solution that involves parents, teachers, and taxpayers in the solution," Lingle said in her statement. "The generous proposal I offered last month eliminates all remaining days when children are supposed to be in school but are shut out, while remaining within our budget constraints. I appreciate that parents have been working to develop constructive solutions to return children to the classroom. I encourage these parents to ask HSTA to re-open the negotiations."