Hawaii lawmakers urge consolidating furlough days
Barring an agreement between the state and the teachers union and funding from the state Legislature, next year's school calendar will include 17 furlough Fridays — leaving a total of 163 instructional days — under a recently approved public school calendar.
Some lawmakers yesterday said they want to urge the state Board of Education to reschedule the furlough days by consolidating them at the end of the year or by lengthening winter or spring break to alleviate the burden of four-day instructional weeks.
"Furlough days scattered throughout the school year makes life very difficult," said state Rep. K. Mark Takai, D-34th (Newtown, Waiau, Pearl City). "I'd like to recommend to the board that should there be no resolution to the furlough issue that we resolve to consolidate the furlough days, expand the winter, spring or summer break ... so that it doesn't inconvenience."
Takai spoke during a joint hearing yesterday of the state House Education and Labor Committees, which took up two resolutions urging the state Department of Education, Board of Education and Gov. Linda Lingle to continue to negotiate with the Hawaii State Teachers Association.
The state Board of Education recently approved a public school calendar for the upcoming school year that included 17 furlough days — seven in the first semester of the year and 10 in the second semester. All furloughs would land on a Friday, leaving only 10 regular five-day instructional weeks in the school year.
State Rep. Roy Takumi, chairman of the House Education Committee, said he had been told by the BOE that furlough days other than Friday had been considered, including consolidating all of the days at the end of the school year.
"The reason furlough Fridays were taken was that it had to work, of course, with the other Fridays that other state workers are taking as well," Takumi said. "It was raised, 'Why don't we just end the school year earlier?' But if no one works in that given month, then how do they accrue benefits? The feds do not allow someone to not work for a whole month and still accrue benefits."
DOE spokeswoman Sandy Goya said the current school calendar is subject to changes during the furlough negotiations with the HSTA and the the Legislative session. Several bills are still alive this session that would use $50 million from the state's emergency budget reserves or from general funds to pay to eliminate some furlough days.
Another possibility, would be to have the furloughs fall on other days, instead of Fridays.
"If it got to that point, the calendar dates would need to be discussed with the unions," Goya said.
The joint committee yesterday approved two resolutions — HR 192 and HCR 267 — that would urge the governor, education officials and the HSTA to negotiate a solution to furlough days.
Board of Education member Carol Mon Lee told lawmakers that the impression of the resolutions is that the board has not been negotiating.
"I think the presumption is that there is no movement. It's been ongoing, although it might seem kind of slow, there has been some constant interaction between the parties," Lee said, adding that she could not release details of the negotiations.
Wil Okabe, president of the HSTA, has said the union continues to discuss possible resolutions to the furloughs with the BOE.
The union last month filed a complaint with the state labor board that said Lingle "willfully and unlawfully" killed a tentative agreement with the Board of Education that would have ended furlough Fridays for the rest of the school year.
The agreement would have cut seven furlough days this year by using $35 million from the state's "rainy-day" fund. It would have left 17 furlough days for the next school year. Lingle rejected the plan and instead proposed using $50 million in rainy-day money to cancel 24 furlough days both this year and next.