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StarBulletin.com

Lingle not to blame for teacher furloughs


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POSTED: Monday, September 28, 2009

Reaction to public school teachers ratifying the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) contract is understandably focused on the impact to our students.

However, comments blaming Gov. Linda Lingle for furloughing teachers are misdirected.

Gov. Lingle does not have the legal authority to furlough or lay off teachers or other Department of Education employees, nor is she able to determine when schools will be closed.

The Department (DOE) and Board of Education (BOE) took the lead in negotiating the new contract with the HSTA. These three parties made the difficult choice to furlough teachers as part of the DOE's share of helping to close the state's growing budget shortfall. Once the tentative contract was agreed to by the DOE, BOE and HSTA, Gov. Lingle then gave her approval, and the contract was overwhelmingly ratified by teachers by a vote of 81 percent.

The decision to furlough teachers and close schools on furlough days was not something anyone wanted. However, the DOE, BOE and HSTA felt it was the fairest way to address the budget shortfall.

They could have laid off employees or implemented pay cuts and required teachers to work. They could have had teachers take furloughs on non-instructional days or on state holidays.

The bottom line is the DOE, BOE and HSTA were faced with making decisions that inevitably would not please everyone.

I applaud Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto, the BOE members and HSTA leaders for demonstrating leadership and making difficult decisions that in the end will keep our teachers employed so they can focus on educating our students.

 

Marie Laderta is the state's chief negotiator.