State says HSTA stalling efforts to end furloughs

State says HSTA stalling efforts to end furloughs
Governor Linda Lingle
Governor Linda Lingle
Garrett Toguchi
Garrett Toguchi

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There's another deadlock in the quest to get kids back in school.

State reps and the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) have ended contract negotiations, with sharp words for each other. That leaves Hawaii on track to have the nation's shortest school year.

"$50 million will only cover 10 to 12 days," said Will Okabe, HSTA President.

That money from the rainy day fund is what the Governor is offering to restore teacher salaries, if teachers exchange some of their planning days for classroom time. But education leaders say they need $125 million to cover the 27 remaining furlough days.

"Part of the problem I guess is the Governor only wanted to pay for teachers and essential workers but not for operational costs, electricity, school bus transportation, and cafeteria services, those kind of things," said Garrett Toguchi, Board of Education (BOE) Chair.

Under the Governor's proposal, the Department of Education (DOE) would have to come up with $9 million to cover operational costs.

"For this school year, to come up with $9 million is almost impossible," said Toguchi, who says they're already facing a $41 million shortfall this fiscal year.

The state blasts HSTA, saying the teacher's union wants changes in the contract unrelated to furlough Fridays, which would compromise children's safety and limit their after-school programs.

"The HSTA is now saying they do not want teachers to participate in campus playground supervision responsibilities during lunch hours. And they no longer want teachers to voluntarily participate in school-related responsibilities after the regular school day," said the Lingle Administration's Senior Policy Advisor, Linda Smith

HSTA says that's taken out of context.

"One of things in the contract requires supervision of students during recess or lunch. So those times can be used for planning for the teachers to go supervision classroom and start to plan, correct papers and do things in that time," said Okabe.

Okabe says their intent is to restore teacher's planning days, which would be unpaid under the Governor's proposal. Okabe says they would still have personnel, such as security, vice principals and principals, who could supervise students during recess and lunch.

No deal means furlough Fridays will continue through next year.

Restoring them is still possible.

If a contract is worked out by December 31st, there'll be enough time to go into special session and approve the money.

Otherwise, negotiations would have to happen during the regular session, which starts January 20th, but that could take much longer.

BOE, DOE, and HSTA will continue contract talks early next week. But even if all three agree on a deal, it can't go through unless the state agrees with them.