State and education leaders talking about furlough fix - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State and education leaders talking about furlough fix

Cynthia Thielen Cynthia Thielen
Colleen Hanabusa Colleen Hanabusa
Sam Slom Sam Slom

 

 

 

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

 

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There 41 days left in the calendar year and Hawaii's public school children will only be in class 14 of those days, in part because of holidays and furlough days.

The governor wants to get rid of 27 furlough days by a combination of raiding the rainy day fund and converting teacher planning days into instructional days. So far most lawmakers, the Department of Education and the Board of Education say they are onboard but will the Hawaii State Teachers Association agree?

State Democrats and Republicans met separately behind closed doors going into special session to approve spending $50 million of state rainy day funds to eliminate 12 furlough days at schools.

"I think everyone wants to get the children back in school. It's just disgraceful we have the fewest education days in the nation," said Rep. Cynthia Thielen, (R) House Assistant Minority Leader.

"The Senate is onboard and ready as long as everyone else is there to go forward with a special session and to leave the collecting bargaining up to the people that have to do collective bargaining," said Colleen Hanabusa, (D) Senate President.

It appears a two thirds majority is there in the Senate to approve the plan although it's certainly not unanimous.

"The DOE is getting $2.7 billion a year now so the people who think let's raise taxes and raid this fund, raid that fund, give them more money, that's not what it should be about. It should be about making changes and improvement in our education system and just giving them more money I don't think is going to do that," said Sen. Sam Slom, (R) Senate Minority Floor Leader.

Lawmakers are waiting on talks to begin between the teachers union and state. They'll need to renegotiate their contract to convert 15 non-instructional planning days into teaching days. If they don't it could send a powerful message to the public especially parents.

"I think they'd be very angry, very angry at the union if they didn't cooperate to get the children back in school. That's where they belong," said Rep. Thielen.

"We're talking about various unions that don't want to give back anything or give up anything when all around them people are suffering," said Sen. Slom.

There is still a lot to work out, including finding out exactly how much money is in the rainy day fund to raid.

"We're not quite sure that the rainy day fund actually has $50 million in it right now," said Sen. Hanabusa.

The state Department of Budget and Finance says there's $60 million but about $10 million is already going to other places. Then in April they expect tobacco companies to contribute about $8 million more. Sen. Hanabusa says another option is taking half the money this year and half next fiscal year so it won't be completely drained all at once.

Tomorrow morning Governor Lingle will meet with leaders of the House and Senate.

 

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