Published Online: June 22, 2009

Hawaii Public Schools May Cut School Year

Hawaii's public school year could be reduced by about 13 days because of impending funding cuts, according to Board of Education chairman Garrett Toguchi.

The reduction in school days would be the result of a $278 million budget cut that Gov. Linda Lingle has vowed to impose, he said Thursday.

In order to deal with plummeting state revenues, Lingle has decided to implement furloughs three Fridays each month starting in July, covering the 15,600 state employees under her direct control.

The governor's furloughs don't include employees of the Department of Education, but its impending $278 million budget cut equals what the state would save if the department were part of the furlough program.

Education officials are negotiating with the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the Hawaii Government Employees Association about taking days off without pay.

"Services to children can never be replaced," teachers union president Roger Takabayashi said. "The days lost now can never be made up in the future."

The union is also concerned about the impact of furloughs on teachers, Takabayashi said, because many married couples work for the department.

"It's so devastating. I just cannot imagine that we cannot find another alternative (to furloughs)," he said.

The unions representing teachers and government workers, along with two other state employee unions, are suing the governor to stop the furloughs and prevent her from cutting funding to the Department of Education, University of Hawaii and Hawaii Health Systems Corp.

Toguchi said Lingle and the Legislature should increase the general excise tax to reduce the impact on schools and also use the Hurricane Relief Fund and Rainy Day Fund to support public education.

He said the board hopes to minimize effects on the school year by including holidays and other days off in the furloughs.

"Even if you look at all the holidays, there aren't enough of those days (to avoid reducing the school year)," he said.

The department's Web site lists 180 instructional days for students and 190 days for teachers for the upcoming school year.

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