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Federal funds considered to help fill in furlough gaps


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A group of state Senate and House members plans to meet with staff members of the Lingle administration to discuss reducing the number of days public schools are closed due to budget cuts.

One aspect of the discussion will focus on using some of the $35 million in federal stabilization funds to reduce the number of Furlough Fridays, said state Sen. Will Espero.

Espero, vice chairman of a Senate special committee examining Furlough Fridays, said if some of the $35 million is applied, the state would not have to take as much for education out of the Hurricane Relief Fund. “;We certainly want to reach out and work with the administration,”; Espero said. “;We must work together.”;

Linda Smith, Lingle senior policy adviser, said the $35 million was not new money and had already been appropriated as part of the budget.

She said funds have not been drawn down, but the administration was going to use them to meet federal standards in education, such as helping struggling schools that have failed to meet their annual yearly progress.

State Sen. Jill Tokuda, a member of the special committee, said the state saves about $5 million a day on Furlough Fridays.

Tokuda said rather than waiting for the legislative session next year for funding, some of the $35 million could be used quickly to reduce the number of furlough days this year.

“;We could see immediate relief to this situation. I think at this point in the game, everything needs to be on the table for negotiation,”; Tokuda said.