Furlough rally held at Capitol


POSTED: Saturday, November 07, 2009

Businesswoman Jackie Breeden pays $60 a day to place her two elementary school-age children in day care.

Air Force wife Marisa Rodriguez takes her two children with her when she attends art classes at the University of Hawaii.

Breeden, owner of Royal Hawaiian Heritage Jewelers, and Rodriguez were among nearly 50 adults and children who stood on Beretania Street yesterday morning, Hawaii's third Furlough Friday, carrying signs urging state legislators to restore the 17 school days that were eliminated this school year because of the state's budget deficit.

For the third Friday in a row, Hawaii's 170,000 public school children were out of the classroom under the unpaid furlough day program approved by the state, the Board of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Besides public schools, the state's courts also were closed yesterday, their first Furlough Friday under the new contract approved by the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

The education rally was sponsored by Save Our Schools Hawaii and Hawaii Education Matters.

On Thursday, after a three-hour meeting, the Democratic House caucus rejected a special legislative session to restore instructional days, instead deciding to address the matter during the 2010 regular session.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa added, “;Special session would appear to be moot if, in fact, the House is not going to come forward and entertain it.”;

The morning protest began slowly with only six adults and six children holding signs at the state Capitol in front of the St. Damien statute at 7:30 a.m.

However, an hour later the crowd had grown to nearly 50, about half of them young children.

Rodriguez, who is majoring in art history, said that when her husband's tour is completed at the end of two years, “;my children will be so far behind because of all the time they will have missed.”;

Her 11-year-old son, Cristian, a Kaimuki Middle School sixth-grader, carried a sign that said, “;I should be in school.”;

Breeden, who has two children attending Noelani Elementary School, said she would like “;to see her kids back in school.”;

Breeden said the recession forced her jewelry company to shut down four of its seven stores and lay off 42 workers.

Retired communications worker Jim Higa, 68, and his wife, June, said they were there because they are concerned for the future of their 8-year-old granddaughter. Higa said he would support a tax increase if the money was spent on education.