Parents urge action to restore days off


POSTED: Saturday, October 31, 2009

Parents asked state legislators yesterday for immediate help to restore the 34 days of public school days that are being lost over two years because of state budget cuts.

The shutdown on Furlough Fridays is not only affecting the future of children, but also the health and welfare of homeless children who go without free school meals, they said.

“;The 17 days is unacceptable for homeless children,”; said Terri Zucchero, a nurse at the Waikiki Health Center.

More than 75 people attended a meeting in the state Capitol Auditorium yesterday, the second Furlough Friday.

State Sen. Will Espero, vice chairman of a special committee reviewing Furlough Fridays, said a group of legislators will meet next week to discuss holding a special session to find funding to eliminate furlough days.

Espero said a special session is supported by 15 out of 25 state senators and about 20 out of 51 House members. A two-thirds majority of each chamber is required for a special session.

Gov. Linda Lingle op- poses a special session.

State Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi said without a doubt, furlough days were adversely affecting students' learning.

;[Preview]  Senate Hearing

State Senate Hearing Urges School Board To Restore Furlough Days:

Watch ]


Toguchi asked lawmakers to look at using money in the Rainy Day Fund and Hurricane Fund, and increasing the general excise tax.

“;We need this short-term relief for students,”; he said.

But some lawmakers were critical of the education budget, including contract provisions for several noninstructional waiver and professional days for teachers when instructional days are being cut at schools.

State Sen. Fred Hemmings criticized the bureaucracy of the Department of Education for not using 4,000 out of 13,000 teachers for in-class instruction.

Board members said many of those 4,000 support the teachers in the schools through various entitlement programs, including special education.

Noel Kent, who teaches at the University of Hawaii, said public school students from the islands already lack academic preparation compared with private school students, and that he was shocked by Furlough Fridays.

“;What this will do will put our students at an even greater disadvantage,”; he said.

Kailua resident Wendy Lynch, who has two daughters in elementary school, said her military family moved to Hawaii from Virginia and would have planned to send their girls to private schools if they had known the number of school days was going to be reduced to 163 from 180.

“;This is appalling to me,”; she said. “;I would rank Hawaii's educational system as the absolute worst we've encountered. ... We are setting up our teachers to fail our children.”;

Jo McGarry Curran, whose group Hawaii Education Matters organized a rally that attracted more than 800 people at the state Capitol on Oct. 23, said she wants teachers and the state to return to the negotiating table to do away with Furlough Fridays.

“;Ignorance costs far more than education,”; she said.