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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 23, 2010

HSTA lodges complaint against Lingle

 •  Student anxiety sets in as furlough days mount

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Education Writer

The Hawaii State Teachers Association yesterday filed a complaint with the state labor board against Gov. Linda Lingle, claiming she "willfully and unlawfully" killed the union's tentative agreement with the Board of Education to end furlough days for the current school year.

The teachers union and state education officials agreed in late December to a plan to cut seven furlough days this year using $35 million from the state's "rainy day" fund, leaving 17 furlough days for the next school year. The governor rejected the plan and came back with one of her own to use $50 million from the rainy day fund to cancel 24 furlough days both this year and next.

HSTA's complaint says Lingle did not have the legal authority to kill the original plan, and asks the Hawai'i Labor Relations Board to force the governor to fund their tentative agreement.

Russell Pang, Lingle's spokesman, said the administration had not seen the complaint and would not comment.

The union is arguing the governor's signature was not required for the supplemental agreement because Lingle had already approved the main contract with the HSTA. The authority to draft supplemental agreements lies with the Board of Education, but the governor is blocking the agreement by refusing to fund the plan, the union said.

The HSTA also claims Lingle has been bargaining through the media and has been unwilling to compromise or bargain in good faith.

Lingle's most recent plan to eliminate public school teacher furloughs was nearly identical to her original November plan.

That proposal would have used the $50 million from the state's rainy day fund to cover salaries only for "essential" teachers and would have excluded several categories of instructors, including resource teachers and librarians.

"The governor has never shown the slightest willingness to move off of her position," HSTA president Wil Okabe said in a statement. "Instead, the governor stubbornly clings to her mantra of allowing only 'essential teachers' to return to school and eliminating all planning days. Only the governor pretends these are workable solutions."

HSTA and the Board of Education have said they are concerned the governor's plan would not fund the salaries for all school-level employees to return to work, including security guards, health aides, cafeteria workers and others.

Union and education officials have estimated the DOE would face a $19.3 million budget shortfall under the governor's plan. That's even if teachers swap their planning days, without additional pay, as the governor is still suggesting.

Education officials warned the shortfall would result in layoffs of 2,500 full-time employees, increased class sizes and loss of school-level programs.