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Furloughs could be key 2010 issue


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is this the week that Hawaii's middle class rolled over and died?

Back before 9/11 and, before Lehman Bros., when Hawaii had Liberty House, Aloha Airlines and a sense of confidence, Hawaii loved to plot its future.

We had conferences on 2000, on 2020 and even 2050.

One of those conferences set out four possible scenarios, ranging from “;business as usual”; to “;collapse”; and the always popular “;sustainable society.”;

Each forecast pondered education. The business-as-usual model said education would suffer a “;long, slow decline in public funding,”; with the University of Hawaii shriveling to only departments heavily linked to private corporate funding.

In the worst-case sce-nario, Hawaii's education split into “;an expensive training program for children of the rich and a social control institution to keep the rest of the kids off the streets.”;

And the sustainable model saw an expansion of Hawaii's education system, promising as much education as any resident wanted, with a proliferation of different educational institutions with greater funding and less state control.

With the most centralized school system in the nation, public education in Hawaii has been blamed for costing too much and not doing enough. But, Hawaii has enough public school success stories to prove that the DOE can provide a good education.

Hawaii's middle-class, two-wage-earner, just-bought-a-house, can't-afford-a-vacation-or-a-newcar families see as part of their right a decent public school education.

No one figured out that by 2009 we would be 10 days away from shutting the schools every Friday this year and every other Friday next year and still calling it an education system.

If furloughing teachers serves as the solution to Hawaii's budget shortfall, then curtailing other government services could be in the offing.

Before it was ruled unconstitutional, Gov. Linda Lingle had a plan to shut down all of state government three Fridays a month for two years.

Newton was talking about physics when he said, “;For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,”; but there will also be a political toll to pay.

If furloughs turn out to be just too politically unacceptable, the next step could make 2010 Hawaii's most important election.

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Richard Borreca writes on politics every Wednesday. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).