Schools consider slicing 13 days from class schedule


POSTED: Friday, June 19, 2009

The public school year could be reduced by about 13 days or more to deal with a $278 million budget restriction imposed by Gov. Linda Lingle, Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi said last night.

Toguchi, reacting to the governor's announcement on her furlough plans yesterday, said the board believes the cut can be accomplished without layoffs, but public school employees would have to agree to furloughs.

The board chairman continued to urge the governor and the Legislature to pass a general excise tax increase to reduce the impact on schools and to use the Hurricane Relief Fund and Rainy Day Fund to support public education.

But preparing for a “;worst-case scenario,”; Toguchi said the board and the Department of Education are negotiating with the teachers union and Hawaii Government Employees Association about taking days off without pay.

“;Services to children can never be replaced,”; said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Roger Takabayashi. “;The days lost now can never be made up in the future.”;

Takabayashi said the union is also concerned about the impact of furloughs on teachers, noting that in many families both parents work for the department.

“;It's so devastating. I just cannot imagine that we cannot find another alternative (to furloughs),”; he said.

Toguchi said the board is hoping that they can minimize effects on the school year by including holidays and other days off in the furloughs.

But, Toguchi said, “;Even if you look at all the holidays, there aren't enough of those days (to avoid reducing the school year).”;

The Department of Education Web site lists 180 instructional days for students and 190 days for teachers for the upcoming school year.

At the University of Hawaii, President David McClain told the Board of Regents earlier this month that he will reduce administrative salaries by a yet-to-be determined amount to deal with $108 million in additional budget cuts through the next two years.

McClain said the university is waiting to see what happens with lawsuits filed by the unions before deciding if UH will implement furloughs.

He said the university is also continuing to look at other ways to reduce expenses and to negotiate with union workers.