HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Education leaders are trying to close the gap in student learning time between Hawaii's public school campuses.
After the teacher furloughs in 2009, Hawaii passed a law creating minimum instructional hours for students. The state evened out elementary schools first, but dealing with the other campuses will be more complicated.
By law, all public schools now have a minimum of 180 instructional days, and elementary schools must provide at least 915 hours of student learning time each school year.
"Those instructional minutes, although we're talking about quality time, you have to start with getting them in the seats," said parent Kimberly Kepner-Sybounmy.
The next phase focuses on 101 middle and high schools. Students have to be offered 990 hours of instruction starting in the 2014 - 2015 school year, but there is a huge difference between some campuses.
"Some schools show 220 hours less than other schools. We do have two schools that make the instructional minutes," said Department of Education superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.
"It's a little disheartening to hear that so many are still so far behind, and it looks like they still have a lot of work to do," said Kathy Bryant of Hui for Excellence in Education.
Matayoshi briefed lawmakers on Monday about the state's progress. She pointed out that the legislation focuses on the students' learning time, not the teachers' instructional time, which is in HSTA's contract. However, lengthening the school day would likely affect the union's collective bargaining agreement.
"When if you look in the contract, there's also a breakdown of that 6.5 hours, so if we go beyond the requirements that are currently set in the collective bargaining agreement, that has a potentially significant fiscal impact as well," Matayoshi said.
The DOE is creating a working group to study issues like staggering the teachers' work day and defining what counts as instructional time. Parents are pleased with the progress at the elementary school level. Now they're hoping the state can come up with the right answer for the rest of the students.
"We've said all along that this could be done within the existing contract, and so we're a little frustrated that it's taken this long to get any action taken on the secondary school levels," said parent Melanie Bailey.
The DOE is still finalizing its data and couldn't provide Hawaii News Now with a breakdown of instructional times at secondary schools.
Charter schools and multi-track schools are exempt from the law.