Published Online: December 31, 2009

Hawaii Tentative Teacher Furlough Agreement Discussed

Officials of Gov. Linda Lingle's administration were briefed Wednesday on a tentative agreement involving the reduction of furlough days for public school teachers.

The meeting on the agreement between the Board of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association drew board chairman Garrett Toguchi, state Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto, state Finance Director Georgina Kawamura and Linda Smith, the governor's senior policy adviser.

"We had a long and productive meeting," Toguchi said. "We look forward to a hopefully a favorable response, soon."

Smith called the discussions "helpful," saying the particulars will be relayed to the governor. The purpose of the meeting, she said, was to learn more details about the agreement.

Lingle said Monday that she couldn't back the agreement between the board and the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

The agreement calls for restoring seven of the 10 remaining furlough days this school year, in part by using $35 million in the state's rainy day fund. Two teachers planning days would be changed to instructional days, and the three finals days of the school year would simply be canceled.

"This arrangement is not a credible plan, it is not fiscally responsible and it is not sustainable," Lingle said Monday.

Lingle had wanted to leverage $50 million from the fund to help end all 27 furlough days through the end of next school year. The money would restore 12 furlough days if teachers would agree to teach on 15 planning or other noninstructional days.

State lawmakers have said Lingle's approval is needed for the tentative agreement to work.

The furlough days were instituted this year to help the state face a budget deficit. They gave Hawaii the shortest school year in the country, at 163 days.

Meanwhile, the topic of furloughs came up Wednesday while Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, met with reporters in Honolulu.

"As a general rule, I try not to get involved in matters of the state, because I'm on the federal side," he said.

"But like every citizen here, I listen to talk shows here, read the newspapers. And the one thing that has deeply concerned me, is that throughout the negotiations and discussions, very seldom do you hear the word 'student' being used. It's 'teachers pay' or 'budget.'

"I would hope that the responsible parties — the Department of Education, the governor's office, the teachers organizations, the parents organization — would get together and determine what is essential for our kids. And then work around it," he said.

"Let's focus on the kids, that's what it's all about. It's not about the budget and it's not about teachers pay."

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