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DOE officials face another $110 million trim


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POSTED: Tuesday, June 02, 2009

State education officials balked at the level of cuts suggested yesterday by Gov. Linda Lingle if it means shrinking the school year for students.

Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto said the Department of Education will have to trim an additional $110 million from next year's budget to meet the governor's demand.

Programs will have to be cut or dropped, teachers might face larger classes—a collective-bargaining issue—and delays in maintenance are likely, according to Hamamoto and Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi, who held a news conference to respond to the governor's announcement.

“;The board had anticipated a dire situation,”; said Toguchi. “;We are all shocked by the numbers.”;

The governor, lacking authority to impose furloughs in the Department of Education or University of Hawaii system, said they must take cuts equivalent in value to furloughs ordered at other state departments. Teachers work a nine-month schedule. Under Lingle's formula, that translates to 27 furlough days a year.

“;Taking 27 days out is unacceptable,”; Toguchi said. “;Our priority is to preserve as many instruction days as possible for students.”;

Said Hamamoto, “;Every parent ought to be concerned. We are going through cuts we never experienced before, and we all need to be ready for cuts. Through all this, the most important thing is that we are here to ensure we always provide for the students.”;

Toguchi said the board had difficulty trimming $40 million, as required after the earlier shortfall calculation.

“;The Legislature handed us another $43 million lump sum reduction, and the board hasn't figure that out yet.”;

With the latest news, the budget must be trimmed by $394 million through the next two years, down to $1.5 billion from the original $1.8 billion.

The department has about 21,000 employees, 13,000 of whom are teachers. Personnel costs account for 70 percent of the department budget.

Hamamoto said “;we are working to ensure that whatever we do would be fair”; to employees. “;We want it to be that the department as a whole and as a unit works through this together.”;

The University of Hawaii system “;is reviewing the governor's directives,”; said spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka. Discussion by the Board of Regents, chancellors of all 10 UH campuses and consultation with the employees' unions are ahead “;before we come up with any decisions,”; she said. “;Everything is on the table.”;

Tanaka said the UH system faces cutting up to 15 percent from the $422 million general fund budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.