Teachers, healthcare professionals react to Lingle's budget proposal

Kristina Lawyer
Kristina Lawyer
Paul Bauer
Paul Bauer

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Gov. Linda Lingle's (R-Hawaii) plan to balance the budget has alarm bells going off at Hawaii's public schools. She's proposing mandatory three days off a month without pay, or a 13.8 percent pay cut across the board at all state departments.

Hawaii's public schools had their budgets slashed several times. To face additional cuts would mean further strain on our public education system.

Kristina Lawyer is a first grade teacher at Princess Victoria Ka'iulani Elementary. Monday, she saw Gov. Lingle talk about an across the board three day a month furlough program, or almost 14 percent of an employee's salary.

"It is going to be hard for people to be able to afford to stay here as teachers," said Lawyer who is finishing up her first year at Ka'iulani. "Some from the mainland who come here are not going to be able to stay."

Since teachers have to be here the entire school year, the governor's plan would simply mean a pay cut since public school teachers cannot take days off.

"We're still going to be doing the same amount of work and we're not going to be getting paid, so it doesn't really seem fair," said Lawyer.

Fourth grade teacher Paul Bauer says his school has already had to cut a lot from its budget. To trim more could be detrimental to Hawaii's public education system.

"I really don't know how people can survive," said Bauer, who has been teaching for 11 years. "We're just really getting by as is with what we're receiving."

Teachers say beyond their paychecks, Hawaii's students will be the ones who suffer.

"I didn't choose to be a teacher to work in a private school; I chose to work in public education and that's where my heart is to help students from all economic backgrounds," said Lawyer. "I think we need to have money going into these schools so that it can truly be an equal society where everyone can work hard and be successful in life."

Trying to swim upstream in a downturn economy.

The Department of Education says it's too early to tell what all this means. For the time being, they're just trying to get through this school year, but they are nervous about the upcoming school year in August.

Those in the medical field, are also concerned, about how the proposed budget cuts, will affect the health care system.

Last year, Hawaii's hospitals lost $150 million. The year before, they lost another $150 million. They say, health care should fall under essential or "core" programs, since hospitals need medical professionals every day to take care of patients.

"Our charity care increasing every year and we're really worried as to what's going to happen this year because so many people are out of work," said Richard Meiers, Healthcare Association of Hawaii's president and CEO. "They may not have insurance and we take care of these people and we're going to see our charity care and our uncompensated care go up millions of dollars this year."

Hawaii hospitals claim they are not getting reimbursements they're supposed to get. So if they don't have money or if their funding gets cut, they can't pay their employees and medical suppliers to keep hospitals running.