Stretched schedule


POSTED: Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hawaii's students would be guaranteed a school year of 180 days under legislation headed for final votes this week, an effort aimed at preventing teacher furloughs from ever displacing children from classrooms again.

“;I'm very happy—it's just a fabulous piece of legislation,”; said Melanie Bailey, a public school parent who lobbied hard for the bill. “;With all the bad news about furloughs, I hope people will understand what an impact this bill can have.”;

The bill requires a 180-day public school year starting in the fall of 2011. It also mandates longer instructional hours for students. The bill cleared a conference committee unanimously Friday night, but still must be approved by the full House, Senate and the governor.

If passed, it would be the first time the state has made the length of the public school year a matter of law. Until now, the academic year has been set through bargaining with the Hawaii State Teachers Association. A spokesman said HSTA President Wil Okabe was not available for comment yesterday. In testimony, the union had raised concerns about collective bargaining rights and potential costs.

The move would bring Hawaii in line with other states across the nation, which set the school year and/or instructional hours by law or regulation. The issue of classroom time burst into the limelight locally—and caught national attention—after the teachers' union and the state agreed last fall to cut costs by shutting down Hawaii's public schools for 17 “;Furlough Fridays.”; That shrank the school year from 180 days to 163 days, the shortest in the country.







        A bill mandating a 180-day school year and specific instructional hours faces final votes in the House and Senate this week.


2011-2013 school years


» 180 days per academic year


» 5 hours average daily instructional time for elementary students


» 5 1/2 hours average daily instructional time for secondary students


2013-2015 school years


» 180 days per academic year


» 6 hours average daily instructional time for all students


Source: Hawaii Legislature




Most states require 180 instructional days per year, according to the Education Commission of the States. The bill (HB 2486 CD1), introduced by Rep. Lyla Berg (D, Hahaione Valley-Aina Haina), would apply to children in public schools except those in charter schools. Teacher planning days would not count as instructional days, and instructional hours could not include lunch, recess and passing time between classes.

According to the bill, in the 2011-2013 academic years, elementary school students would receive 915 hours per year, or an average of five hours of instruction daily. That is 17 minutes more than the current average daily minimum, according to the Department of Education. High school students would get 990 hours of instruction per year, or 5 1/2 hours per day, up from the current minimum of four hours and 17 minutes. Many of Hawaii's public high schools already exceed that minimum.

The number of hours per year would increase starting in the fall of 2013 to 1,080, or six instructional hours daily, in a 180-day school year for all students, elementary and secondary. The legislation also calls for the Department of Education to come up with a plan to extend the school year to 190 days and 1,140 instructional hours starting in the 2015-16 school year.

The bill was backed by both Democrats and Republicans on the conference committee, including both Education Committee chairmen, Sen. Norman Sakamoto and Rep. Roy Takumi.

It represents a breakthrough to Bailey, an Aikahi Elementary parent who teamed up with other parents to call public schools in every state, collecting information on instructional time to present to legislators.

“;I want to thank the legislators because they could easily have focused just on the big newsworthy items, like furloughs, that got so much attention,”; she said. “;This bill slowly inched its way along, and I'm just really happy that they pushed for it because it could easily have been swept under the carpet.”;

Another public school parent, Olga Boric-Lubecke, who has been active in the Save Our Schools group battling furloughs, welcomed the bill's movement but warned that it is too early to celebrate.

“;I think if it goes through, it's something that is very positive,”; Boric-Lubecke said. “;My caution is that we're not quite there yet.”;