Silence greets Aiona's call for meeting on furloughs


POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2009

No one has responded to Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona's calls for meetings between the Hawaii teachers union and public school officials to halt the ongoing teacher furloughs.

On Monday, Aiona, who is running for governor as a Republican, said he wanted to try to amend the teachers' contract “;to allow for straight pay cuts and shifting furloughs to noninstructional days.”;

Aiona wrote to Pat Hamamoto, superintendent of education; Garrett Toguchi, Board of Education chairman; and Wil Okabe, Hawaii State Teachers Association president, asking for a meeting.

Aiona said yesterday he is still waiting for responses.

Toguchi said Aiona's plan was not realistic, but added that if everyone agrees to a meeting with Aiona, he would attend.

“;If the lieutenant governor is thinking he can broker a deal that will take away more from the unions, I don't think that is realistic,”; Toguchi said.

Toguchi said the chances of the HSTA approving a pay cut or reducing vacation or holidays are “;slim or none.”;

Those proposals were first discussed between the school board and the HSTA early on in the labor negotiations and rejected by the union, Toguchi said.

Yesterday, Aiona said in an interview that the parties involved in state education “;haven't responded as I thought they would.”;

“;I will continue to reach out. My door is always open,”; Aiona said.

He acknowledged that the unions “;want to have money on the table”; before they talk to the state, adding that increased funding was not an option now.

Democratic legislators have proposed that Gov. Linda Lingle release funds from the federal stimulus package to pay the teachers to work on furlough days, but the GOP administration has said the money is already included in the state budget for other purposes.

Asked why Lingle didn't consider the effects of 17 furlough days a year on public school students, Aiona said Lingle had questioned education officials before they approved the labor settlement with furloughs.

“;I know she asked the poignant questions, and she was assured that everyone had been confronted with the issue, and they had been confronted and fully vetted and it was good to go,”; Aiona said.