Protestors turn the Capitol into an outdoor classroom - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Protestors turn the Capitol into an outdoor classroom

Meleana Gray Meleana Gray
Nate Jones Nate Jones
Pablo Furukawa Pablo Furukawa
Carla Kollien Carla Kollien

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The Hawaii State Capitol turned into an outdoor classroom on this first Furlough Friday. More than a thousand people gathered for a lesson in civics and economics. They're protesting the cut in classroom time, for 170,000 public school students.

We saw many parents there with their kids. They just wanted to let everyone know Furlough Fridays is a bad idea for Hawaii's students.

These future Picassos let their imagination flow. They love to draw ...

"because it shows the stuff in your heart and your feelings," said Meleana Gray, a fourth grade student at Kainalu Elementary School in Kailua.

The nine-year-old loves drawing more than anything in the world ... well, almost.

"It's like me loving a puppy, because it's one of my favorite things to do," she said.

Meleana and her friends look like they're in an art class.

But they're not in school. They're at the capitol, protesting Furlough Fridays. Several thousand parents, students and teachers are here to make their voices heard.

They want to let everyone know they're frustrated over Furlough Fridays.

"Well, I'd rather be in the classroom right now so we could be learning about math, science, social studies," said Nate Jones, a fifth grade student at Aikahi Elementary in Kailua.

"You just need school," added his schoolmate Pablo Furukawa, a sixth grade student. "School's like the thing that keeps us alive. It's sort of like the heart of civilization."

In February 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Recovery Act into law. It allocated $100 billion for education, including $40 billion for K-12 programs.

"We didn't pass that recovery fund and the Congress and the president didn't sign that recovery bill to close schools," said Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii. "We passed that money in order to keep schools open, to keep instruction going."

Parents are hoping someone at the Capitol hears their cries for help.

"Please find a way to put our children back into school," said Carla Kollien, a concerned parent. "Education needs to be a priority in Hawaii and in our nation. Our children have got to be considered first."

It's a commitment singer Jack Johnson has stood behind for years. His Kokua Hawaii Foundation supports environmental education in schools.

Despite the fanfare and excite, the goal is to make sure they won't have to spend their Fridays here.

"I want to get back in school so I can learn more so I'm ready for the next grade," said Faith Kollien, a fourth grade student.

It's a simple request during a complex time in our history.

The governor says this is a situation no one wants to be in. It's either furloughs or layoffs. Furlough Fridays save the state $204 million.

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