Categorized | Education, Videos

Governor Lingle announces plan to eliminate student furlough days in 2010

MEDIA RELEASE

Plan to get children back to class

Plan would ensure there is no classroom time lost for the period of January 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

(current furlough schedule continues through Dec. 31, 2009)

27 Fridays of class time will be restored over 1 ½ years beginning Jan. 1, 2010.

How this would be accomplished:

1. Use 15 non-classroom days (between Jan. 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011) when teachers are paid but do not teach classes to restore all teaching days lost on Furlough Fridays beginning Jan. 1, 2010.

(For those teachers who work on a 12-month schedule, a comparable adjustment would be made.)

2. The cost of restoring the remaining 12 days would be achieved by using money out of the Emergency Budget Reserve Fund (Rainy Day Fund).

Estimated cost to Rainy Day Fund would be $50 million.

7 furlough days+15 Fridays replace non-instructional days+12 days paid by Rainy Day Fund=34 days (original # of furlough days)

Advantages of this plan:

1. It allows us to refocus on improving the quality of instruction in our public school system, including putting together a competitive plan to position Hawai‘i to compete for additional federal education funding, such as Race to the Top.

2. It restores stability to the school year and eliminates the disruption that has occurred to family schedules.

3. It reflects a shared approach to addressing this matter—some furlough days, teachers contribute their non-instructional time, and the State provides some additional compensation to cover the remaining days.

4. It enables the state’s political leaders and businesses to focus on growing our economy and our quest to achieve energy independence and security.

Note: The following transcript is from the second half of a news conference in which Governor Lingle first provided an update on her recent trip to China to promote tourism, international trade and clean energy partnerships, then discussed a plan to return children to class by restoring instructional days. The news conference can be viewed at www.hawaii.gov/gov.

Even though the (China) trip was hugely successful and I was gone for two weeks, I was in touch here at home throughout that time. I was especially concerned about the furlough issue lingering on, about the need for a solution and the need to break the status quo, so I’ve been working throughout the weekend with my team to put together a plan to deal with the furlough issues.

This plan, starting January 1, 2010, would eliminate all furlough Fridays for the rest of the contract period. It’s very straightforward – made up of two basic parts:

Number one is that over the life of the contract, starting January 1, the teachers would take 15 non-instructional days and we would turn them into instructional days on Fridays. So days that they now have for preparation, workshops or a teacher institute would transfer to a Friday and they would become a teaching day. There would be 15 of those days.

In addition to that, I would pledge with the Legislature to use the Rainy Day Fund to fund 12 days – 12 Fridays being restored that way.

So between the 15 non-instructional days becoming teaching days, plus 12 days paid for by the Rainy Day Fund – that’s 27.  The remaining seven days would be carried out this year.

So the furloughs that were in place when we began this program through December 31 would go on as planned. So if you add the 15 non-instructional days becoming instructional, the 12 Rainy Day-funded days, plus the seven furloughs, that’s 34 days and that is the amount that was contemplated in the entire two-year (HSTA) contract.

I want to talk about some of the advantages of this plan and why it should be implemented.  It allows us to get our focus back on improving education – on the quality of education – rather than on simply the quantity of education. I think this is a very important distinction to make. While it is important to have classroom time, it’s also important to have successful classroom time. If you’re in a classroom more, we should be doing better as a state and we should start to move up in the rankings nationally.

I want teachers, parents, educators, business people to start to focus more on what we produce on the days we’re in school, not just how many days are we in school. This plan allows us to do that.

Secondly, this plan would restore stability to the community, to the families who have been disrupted because of the (furlough) Fridays – they picked one Friday at a time, rather than all the furloughs taken at one time or rather than non-instructional days being used. It’s also an advantage because this plan represents a shared sacrifice on everyone’s part. The seven furlough days that the parents, students and the community dealt with, the 15 days that the teachers will now teach, and the remaining 12 days that will be funded from the Rainy Day Fund.

Finally, this plan enables the state’s political and business leaders to get focused on growing the economy, on economic development, and on achieving our quest for energy independence and security.

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about China, furloughs or anything else. I should also mention I leave again tomorrow morning for the Republican Governors Association. I’ll be gone until Thursday night, but my team is standing by to begin to negotiate with HSTA, HGEA, talk with Legislators, to meet with the Board of Education and the Department of Education. So my being away shouldn’t stop us all from moving forward this time, now that there’s a specific proposal on the table.

With the use of the special fund, would it be immediate or something you guys could do in session?

It’s possible that it could be immediate if there was a special session called. It’s something I would consider if we had a consensus before going into the special session. So, for instance, if the legislators believe this is a good plan and want to do it now, I would be willing to call them into special session.

If they are not able to reach a consensus among their members over the next few days or the next couple of weeks, then it’s something I think we could do next year, certainly. I’m prepared to do it now.

But you’re not calling them back in?  You’re waiting for them to say they endorse the agreement before you do that?

Yes, I would be willing to call them in but I’d like to hear from the leadership that they at least have a consensus among them.

And the non-instructional days would require the re-opening of the contract with HSTA, but you also mentioned HGEA and UPW, do you envision all three – I think it’s unit 5,6 and 1 – signing?

I think it’s really HGEA mostly, and HSTA. There may be some UPW involvement but yes, the contract would have to be re-opened, whether it’s re-opened in the sense of a supplemental agreement or an amendment rather than a whole re-writing, there would have to be changes made to what was previously agreed to. It would have to be agreed to by the HSTA and HGEA at least.

How much would you take from the Rainy Day Fund?

I’m looking at approximately $50 million.

And the 15 instructional days that you would convert to regular days, are there still 15 instructional days available next …?

Over the next two years, there are well more than 15 non-instructional days if you count the Wednesday where everyone goes home, there are many Wednesdays in the school year plus any given year has two to three workshop days. They have professional development days, there are teacher institute days, some schools have waiver days, so if you put that together with the Wednesdays, there is certainly enough time.

If people are committed to finding a compromise, consensus solution, this is it. It is possible. Both components of this plan are possible. It’s up to the parties to agree to them.

You had said previously that you were not inclined to look at special funds until at least the end of this quarter, perhaps the end of the first quarter of the new fiscal year. What changed that thinking and convinced you not to stick with it?

Two things happened. One was watching it from afar (from China) everyday. It seems it’s all that people are talking about or thinking about in Hawai‘i. We need to get re-focused on the economy, on job creation, on economic development and on energy security. I felt keeping the bigger picture in mind was more important at this point to move us forward as a state.

So I was looking for a compromise. I also had a visit yesterday from Senator Taniguchi, who talked about the possibility of a special session versus waiting for it. He made some really good points that I discussed with my team. We were here most of yesterday. I felt he made a really compelling case. It depends now on whether we can get a consensus from the Legislature.

He made the case for a special session?

Yes.

Has this been prompted at all by what the Education Secretary had announced this past Friday or Thursday?

No, it wasn’t prompted by that at all but since you brought that up, I was very surprised by his remarks. I thought they were blatantly political. I think everyone else involved in the process has really had the kids’ best interest in mind here.

I think him involving himself in a local issue like this was not appropriate and the comments he made were not factually correct. He said that this would influence our ability to get Race to the Top funds, but in all of the criteria for Race to the Top funds, there is never a mention on the length of the school year.  My staff has been in on those conference calls from the very beginning on how we would be judged and how we would qualify for Race to the Top. This has never been an issue at any point.

I think he should not involve himself in local issues here. He should take our application when he receives it; and on the face of it, he will recognize that we’re meeting the criteria that he set out on a national level.

And the plan to get the children back to class. What needs to happen?  You need to amend or change the contract?  You’ve got to get HGEA, HSTA and maybe UPW to agree?

I can outline a way I think – a path forward. I think a path forward is for the Legislature to reach a consensus about the Rainy Day Fund. If they do that and we can get it to a special session, we can do it very quickly because we reach resolution on that, there can get a proviso on that piece of legislation that says this money becomes available to restore days if these 15 instructional days are agreed to by the appropriate union contracts.   I think that would probably be the path forward.

What kind of timeline are you looking at?  Obviously with this plan it says by next year – I don’t know when the next non-instructional day would turn into an instructional day.  Here we are in the middle of November. They would need to wrap up and agree to this plan pretty quickly…

Well it’s not a complex plan. It’s very simple. It’s very straightforward. I think you would agree as someone who is writing this down. It has two basic parts to it. You know who the parties are. People just have to make a decision. Are they willing to compromise?

Is this debate, is this dilemma we’re in, about the students or is it about the teachers? Is it about the students or is it about the politicians?  If it’s about the students, this plan works. It’s a shared sacrifice. It says the community gave up these seven furlough days. It says the teachers are now going to be treated differently. People who work in schools are going to get more salary than people who are outside because they are getting resorted about 2.5 percent of their salary. They had about an 8 percent (salary reduction); this would reduce it by approximately 2.5 percentage points.

They gain something, they give up something. The students gain everything and if this is about students, this plan works and it should be adopted and there’s no reason for delay.

What would you say to the social service providers who asked for the Rainy Day Fund last session. They waited until the very end of the session and were told – tearfully, I remember, by one lawmaker – that the money’s just not there. That we have to save it in case the budget deficit gets worse. Now you’re going to take $50 million out of that fund.

Well I would say it’s very fortunate that we saved the money because it’s raining on the kids now. It’s a perfect time for the Rainy Day Fund to be used.

How confident are you?  What do you think the response will be from the unions – from HSTA and HGEA?

Well, what I’m hoping for from the unions and from legislators is that they give it serious consideration – that they really think about it, that they explore alternatives, they line up what would be the possible options, and if they recognize that for right now, this is the very best solution to getting the kids back in the classroom, getting education refocused on quality instead of just quantity.

Governor, could I ask you about the layoffs?  (Budget Director) Georgina (Kawamura) said there’s about a $500 million shortfall even after these layoffs. Do you think the state will have to layoff more people?

I think it’s too early to answer that question right now. It’s important to watch our revenues month by month. As you know, we operate on a projected budget. It’s not actual dollars in the bank. It’s what we project we will collect over the next year and a half. The revenue picture is very important. That’s why we publish every month where we’re at.

Right now, we’re at 10.9 percent down on the base that the Council on Revenues had projected at 1.5. Through the first quarter, we were at 9.7, now we’re at 10.9. It depends how that, hopefully, starts to level out through the year. Clearly, we will be working on budget issues up until the last minute we have to submit this budget to the Legislature.

My point is that number is going to fluctuate a bit but clearly there is still a big gap for us to fill.

One more question regarding the furloughs. How are you going to present that?  Are they supposed to call you?

Today, my staff spoke with the head of the Board of Education and the Department of Education – Garrett Toguchi and Pat Hamamoto. I spoke personally with Dwight Takeno from HSTA. I met personally with Brian Taniguchi. I spoke to him by phone again this morning. I left messages for Senator Hanabusa and Speaker Say. I think the Speaker’s in China. I’m not sure when he gets back, but I left word so they’re aware of it.

I think Senator Taniguchi, because he’s heading up that committee that they have looking at the issue, is an important person and he’ll be sharing it with his colleagues I’m certain. So I will wait to hear back from the Legislators on this.

Will you come together and meet?

I think once the legislators feel they have a consensus among their members, I’m willing to call them into a special session and get it done in a minimum number of days. If we have an agreement in advance, we can go in and get it adopted. I think a proviso saying these funds can be used if this occurs on the union side. The reason for the proviso is – this whole fiscal situation has to be a shared sacrifice. Everybody has to give up something. That’s what this plan represents.

Do you have any date out there as to when you would like to see the compromise?

The sooner the better. As I said, I’ll be gone until Thursday night. I’ll be back here on Friday. Hopefully by then we will have some good word from them.

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