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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Furloughs: Let's get real about saving next year

The halfhearted effort by the teachers’ union and Gov. Linda Lingle to end the stalemate over furlough days isn’t just disappointing, it’s pathetic.
Both sides need to get over themselves and get real about reaching a deal that gets the kids back in school.

This week’s name-calling, complaint filing and fingerpointing served only to harden the unsustainable positions of both sides.
So now we need a heroic move from either the governor or the teachers, someone who will step up and say, “We’re so committed to getting the schools open that we’re giving up X.”
And because there is no trust and because feelings are so raw, that’s probably not going to happen.
So we’re back to assuming there’s no hope of restoring any of the furlough days on this year’s calendar.
We will once again suggest that the best that can be expected is not an elimination of furlough Fridays for 2010-11 but a reduction from 17 to seven.
Our plan includes buying back six of the days using rainy-day funds. The other four could be restored by converting planning days to teaching days.
The math works if only essential staff are called back to work, using rainy-day money — but that’s far from a done deal. The union is balking at differentiating among its members and agreeing to allow some to work while others stay home, unpaid.
If that’s such an onerous prospect, the union has to loosen up in some other way. For example, while Lingle has been unreasonable in demanding that all planning days be converted — teachers really do need some non-classroom work time — HSTA leaders should be willing to sacrifice more non-instructional days.
By state Constitution, contract disputes must be settled by the teachers and their employers, but lawmakers can help by advocating and budgeting for a reasonable adjustment to the 2010-11 school calendar.
Without this kind of reality check, the public schools will be treated to more of the same sound and fury over who’s at fault for furloughs — signifying nothing but a failure of state government to do right by its students and taxpaying parents.