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HSTA can help end Furlough Fridays

By Staff | Dec 10, 2009

The Governor’s Council of Neighbor Island Advisors for Maui seeks input on issues for the state to tackle in 2010.

The citizens’ panel will discuss and finalize a prioritized list at a meeting today, Thursday, Dec. 10, at 5 p.m. at the Cameron Center Auditorium. The public is welcome to participate.

It’s obvious that ending Furlough Fridays and improving education should top the list.

Why? Ask Lahaina student Cuong Tran.

“Furlough Fridays is a sick system of preventing kids to learn,” he stated in a letter to Lahaina News.

“Children need a great education to start their future as adults! Children need to benefit; what’s more important in their life?”

The furloughs hurt education, cut into teachers’ pay and put strain on working parents to find child care.

Facing great pressure, Gov. Linda Lingle recently offered a plan to reopen Hawaii’s public schools on Furlough Fridays.

The state would take $50 million from the Rainy Day Fund to pay teachers for 12 more days of instruction between now and June 2011. Teachers are asked to use some in-service days for instruction.

On Friday, Linda Smith, Lingle’s senior policy advisor, and Marie Laderta, director of human resources development, commented that HSTA is dragging its feet on the proposal supported by residents, the state administration and lawmakers.

“National education officials also support restoring the number of days kids attend class. Yet almost three weeks since the plan was announced, we are still in lengthy and unproductive discussions with the state teachers union,” the two state officials noted in a media statement.

The next discussions are scheduled for Dec. 15-16, but the state wants to negotiate now.

“It is time for the teachers union to recognize and accept the fact that if the education of our children is a priority, we can restore 27 days of classroom time, but only if they are willing to share in this sacrifice,” the state officials commented.

“The state management team is prepared to meet daily, evenings and over the weekend if necessary to answer any remaining questions union leaders may have. There is nothing more important right now than our committed effort to resolving this matter. We are prepared to make time; we hope the HSTA feels the same.

“We therefore strongly urge the HSTA to meet with us, complete the discussions, call for a vote by their membership and get on with the plan to reopen classrooms, so our children can receive the education they deserve.”

There is no greater state priority than improving education and ending Furlough Fridays. The state may need the public’s help to urge HSTA to act right away.