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Protesters rally in support of education


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POSTED: Saturday, October 24, 2009

Displaying signs saying “;No to Furloughs”; and “;Stop Furlough Fridays,”; parents and children rallied at the state Capitol in hopes of convincing state leaders to do away with the state's furlough plan that will cut 17 days off the school year.

By 11 a.m. yesterday there were more than 800 demonstrators at the Capitol, some parents coming from as far as Laie.

The rally coincided with the first Furlough Friday yesterday, which cut instruction time for more than 170,000 public school students statewide. Teachers, administrators and other school personnel who are members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the Hawaii State Teachers Association had the day off without pay as part of new contracts designed to help the state overcome a projected $1 billion budget shortfall by June 30, 2011.

Jennifer Moy, parent, rally organizer and a leader of the group Hawaii Education Matters, said the turnout affirmed the feeling that children's education comes first.

“;I think parents just needed a catalyst. They're very frustrated. They're very tired of having the 47th-rated school system in the nation,”; Moy said.

During the rally, organizers met briefly with Gov. Linda Lingle in her fifth-floor office.

;[Preview]  Furlough rally at state capitol draws hundreds
 

About 700 parents and children rallied at the state capitol to protest cuts to their children's education on Furlough Fridays.

Watch ]

 

Gov. Linda Lingle told reporters she regrets signing off on the contract that requires teachers to take 17 furlough days this school year.

Lingle said she assumed the Department of Education, state Board of Education and HSTA would draft a contract that had the best interest of students in mind.

But she says that did not happen.

Instead, she said she, education officials and the union were focused on getting a pact signed.

She says that looking back, she should have pressed to avoid furloughs.

School board Chairman Garrett Toguchi called Lingle's remarks “;not professional.”;

Laie resident Tamara Ulima, who has five children, said she came out to show her opposition to school furlough days and reducing instruction time.

She said although she enjoys spending more time with her kids, it is not the same as learning time with teachers.

“;They need a professional to teach them,”; she said.

“;I think it's inexcusable that politicians don't put education higher on their priority list,”; said Debbie Berger, board chairwoman and co-founder of the Learning Coalition.

The coalition helped register voters at the rally.

“;We'd like to see voters vote on education policy, choose their candidates on education policy,”; she said.

Moanalua High School junior Sophie Curatilo, who held a protest sign on the sidewalk fronting the Capitol, said the state's education system is already behind compared with the mainland.

“;They should take something else away, not our education,”; Curatilo said.

Alapaki Nahalea, president of Hawaii Charter School Network, said his group knows times are hard.

“;We don't deal with that situation by putting kids on the chopping block. We protect them from the chopping block,”; Nahalea said.

Kailua resident Dara Carlin, a mother of two and a former marriage and family therapist, said she does not think many Hawaii families can afford child care and will leave their high school teenagers at home without supervision.

“;A bored teenager is not a good thing,”; she said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.