Plan to trim school year attacked


POSTED: Thursday, September 24, 2009

Advocates helping special education students have criticized the state public schools' plan to shorten the instruction year by 17 days.

Jasmine Williams, program director of the Learning Disabilities Association of Hawaii, said students with learning disabilities already face challenges without eliminating 17 Fridays.

“;They already have difficulty with learning. ... It's not so easy to say, 'Well, we're going to shift that over to another day,'”; Williams said.

She said school officials should look at each individualized educational plan to determine the impact on the student. “;If it means this child should have these services even on Friday, shouldn't they?”;

She said children need consistency in a learning environment and some could regress in their education.






Based on 17 furlough days per year:

 SalaryLost salary
Starting teacher$43,157$3,428
Average teacher$56,195$4,464



Source: Hawaii State Teachers Association



Attorney Eric Seitz, who has represented students with disabilities in lawsuits against the state, said school officials cannot cut the 17 days without going through a process for an individualized instructional program for each student that includes conferences with the parents.

Seitz said he doesn't think the schools can complete the process before the first furlough day on Oct. 23. “;I am contemplating litigation,”; he said. “;This is just another example of the governor destroying the good things in the state rather than providing real leadership.”;

Daniel Hamada, an assistant superintendent with the state Department of Education, said school officials will be reviewing the individualized educational plan for each student and meeting with their parents to see how instruction and therapy can take place in the remaining weekly schedule.

Hamada said some strategies in instruction might include giving independent work and extending the school day with tutorials.

“;We want to make sure the services can still be provided,”; he said.

Some parents criticized the decision to exclude noninstructional days from furloughs, including days when teachers confer with each other without students.

“;I would really like to understand why furlough days were not scheduled for teacher paid nonworking days. ... Our children, our state's future will end up paying the price,”; Jillynn Rotolo said in an e-mail to the Star-Bulletin.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe said the decision was based on selecting days that would have the most cost-cutting impact. “;It basically came down to dollars and cents,”; Okabe said.

Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto decided yesterday to allow previously scheduled athletic competitions and practices to take place on Friday, including canoe and swim meets in the morning.

While teacher association members will be taking furloughs, members of the United Public Workers union and Hawaii Government Employees Association were still expected to be at work at the schools, pending the outcome of labor negotiations with the state.