Judge denies request to delay furloughs - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Judge denies request to delay furloughs

Attorney General Mark Bennett Attorney General Mark Bennett
Eric Seitz Eric Seitz
Wil Okabe Wil Okabe

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - There's no stopping the very first furlough Friday. A court decision Thursday means kids and teachers will indeed stay home from school.

U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra says two lawsuits asking for a temporary restraining order against teacher furloughs would only put the safety of students in peril.

The judge said he had virtually no choice but to deny requests to put off the first of 17-planned furlough days. He says the issue is a serious one and without adequate evidence or proof, he isn't ready to point his finger.

The furlough train is moving forward down the tracks and Judge Ezra says there isn't enough time to stop it.

"We believe the judge acted appropriately, we're pleased that he did," said Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett.

Judge Ezra says granting a temporary injunction against furloughs after school Thursday wouldn't allow for enough time to call back teachers or alert parents. He feared special needs students would show up to schools without the appropriate staff.

"We really had limited expectations that we would get a temporary restraining order with respect to opening schools tomorrow. We do think the prospect of getting some relief is very possible," said the Plaintiff's attorney Eric Seitz.

Relief that parents really hope becomes reality.

"As a parent I have them at home, I try to make up but I don't have peers they can play with. I don't have the things they're getting when they're at school," said Parent Chrystal Schaffner.

"We understand the frustration that parents and students have," said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association says schools are already looking at converting waiver and professional development days into instructional days to give students more time to learn. They say Governor Linda Lingle is also making similar efforts.

"She is looking at other alternatives to get kids back in school," said Okabe.

For now, the state says furloughs are full steam ahead.

"We continue to believe these lawsuits have no legal merit and we'll continue to vigorously defend against them," said Bennett.

Attorneys who filed the lawsuit say it was a last resort after talks with the state to consider furlough alternatives failed. The judge set the next hearing on the matter for November 5th.

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