Teachers willing to return for restored furlough days


POSTED: Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A union leader says public school teachers are willing to return to classrooms on as many Furlough Fridays as can be funded.

“;We are willing to go back to the classroom, as long as the governor provides money and resources,”; Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe said in an e-mailed statement. “;The amount the governor is willing to provide would determine how many furlough days could be restored.

“;We won't know the exact impact of the plan until we receive additional budgetary and statistical information, which we have requested from the employer.”;

Okabe issued the statement after union officials met with the governor, the Department of Education and the Board of Education for the first time since Gov. Linda Lingle offered her plan for ending Furlough Fridays.

Lingle's proposal, announced Nov. 15, would use $50 million from the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund, also known as the rainy day fund, to restore some of the furlough days and convert teachers' noninstructional hours to instructional hours to restore others.


Using the rainy day fund would require approval from the Legislature. Leaders of the House and Senate said last week that they would be willing to hold a special session, possibly next month, to change the rainy day fund law, if all sides were in agreement on a plan to end the furloughs.

There was no word yesterday on whether a special session would take place before the end of the year.

House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho) has urged Lingle to release restrictions on money budgeted to the Department of Education to restore classroom days that would be lost during the current academic school year. Doing so would not require a special session.

He says the days being cut in the 2010-11 school year could be addressed in the regular session.

Messages left yesterday with Lingle's office and the Department of Education were not returned.

A spokesman for the Board of Education said Chairman Garrett Toguchi did not attend the meeting but was briefed on the talks.

“;He's not so much worried about how it is done, just that something gets done,”; said board spokesman Alex Da Silva. “;Of course, the sooner the better.”;