Published Online: January 11, 2010

Lingle Proposes New Plan to End Teacher Furloughs

In another effort to restore Hawaii's shortened school year, Gov. Linda Lingle gave some ground with a new proposal Friday. Despite her concessions, the offer is similar to previous plans that the teachers union has rejected.

Lingle is asking teachers to convert three fewer planning days to instructional days than she had previously sought, which would help regain 24 of the 27 remaining teacher furlough days scheduled to shutter schools statewide this school year and next.

Most other aspects of her plan remain the same.

She still wants to leverage $50 million from a rainy day fund to buy back some school days if teachers will agree to sacrifice most of their non-instructional days. The Hawaii State Teachers Association has previously dismissed that idea.

"As the issue becomes clearer to the public, there's going to be a tremendous backlash against them if they don't take every possible step they can to get children back into the classroom," Lingle said from her Capitol office. "We presented a very viable, fiscally responsible, sustainable plan that will work."

The teachers union said it wasn't invited to collaborate with Lingle on her newest offer after she turned down its last proposal.

The union and Board of Education wanted to spend $35 million from the rainy day fund to restore seven of the 10 remaining furlough days this school year. The plan didn't address next school year's 17 furlough days.

"We cannot comment on the new proposal until we have a chance to review it and determine what it involves," HSTA President Wil Okabe said in a statement. "As always, we remain open and available to discuss ways to end the furloughs."

The school closures gave Hawaii the shortest school year in the nation, at 163 instructional days. Most school districts have a 180-day school year.

The governor, Board of Education, Department of Education and teachers union signed off on an October labor contract that called for the furloughs. They soon had regrets, and they've been trying to regain school days ever since.

Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi said Friday he won't negotiate in public because it could derail a solution.

Lingle's plan would use the $50 million to directly restore 12 furlough days while asking teachers to give up 12 of their planning days.

The union's proposal would spend $35 million to directly restore five furlough days, and teachers would surrender two of their planning days.

The two sides disagree on how far the money will go — Lingle's math estimates it would cost about $4.2 million per day compared to the union's $7 million.

Lingle said HSTA's figure is more expensive because the union wants to reopen district administrative offices as well as schools, while she wants to get by with only classroom teachers, some administrators, safety employees and food servers returning to work.

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