Lingle: ‘No possibility' of public schools shutting down early

Gov. Linda Lingle
Gov. Linda Lingle
Superintendent Pat Hamamoto
Superintendent Pat Hamamoto

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) -  Gov. Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii) reassured the public Friday that money will be available to make sure Hawaii's public school will remain open for the rest of the school year.   This after, Hawaii Public Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto expressed concerns that budget cuts would force her to shut schools down almost a month early.

There's been a lot of back and forth between the state and Superintendent Hamamoto.  With a $2 billion shortfall, the state has to cut spending, but the governor was emphatic Friday.  Hawaii's public schools will remain open the rest of the school year.

Hawaii's public school system gets a real life lesson in economics.  It has to slash $90 million from its budget.

Earlier in the week, Superintendent Hamamoto expressed concerns that public schools may be forced to shut down a month early.

"As a responsible person, I need to let people know what are the different consequences and choices that are facing the department and all our schools and our students," she said.

But Gov. Lingle says that is not even an option.

"Can you assure the public that school's aren't going to close?" asked KHNL.

"Oh, yes," she said.  "There's no possibility that schools will close.  Again that was just, I guess she just panicked.  We need to just get back to calmness and let parents have the assurance that schools will not end early. There's no possibility of that happening. We wouldn't let it happen."

The governor says federal stimulus money fill the entire gap, which means public schools will not lose a single penny.

"We're all disappointed with the superintendent for trying to create panic among parents, students, teachers and the general public," said Gov. Lingle. "She's misinformed."

Increasing taxes to make up the budget shortfall is still off the table for the governor.

Raising taxes right now would cause a jump in unemployment because you have businesses that are barely holding on right now," she said.  "They can't take more of the tax burden and you have families who have already cut back so much who are going to be facing higher property taxes from the city."

She adds this is the time for people to work together to find a solution in these tough economic times.

"This is unprecedented in Hawaii's history," said Gov. Lingle.  "It's a time for everyone to remain calm, and to pull together as a team and not get stressed out at an early stage."

The governor says her basic premise is no layoffs, no to raising new taxes, and asking public employees to take some reductions so everyone can stay working.

The next budget forecast is in May.  That's when the state Council on Revenues will meet once again, right after the legislature ends its session.