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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Anti-furlough group stages sit-in at governor's office

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Education Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Parents and students occupied Gov. Linda Lingle's office this evening.

Marguerite Higa, Special to The Advertiser

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About 16 people, including a handful of elementary school students, were staging a sit-in tonight in Gov. Linda Lingle's office in hopes of prodding officials to find a way to end school furloughs.

The governor's office staff allowed the group to stay beyond the 4:30 p.m. close of business, with the condition that no one would be admitted after that time and that anyone who left the office even to use the bathroom would not be allowed back in, a participating parent said.

Save Our Schools Hawaii, a grassroots organization of parents concerned about teacher furloughs, is demanding that Lingle negotiate directly with the teachers union and the state Board of Education. The parents say they are frustrated that the governor routinely has sent aides to negotiate.

"Does she want to be remembered as the governor who did not care about school children?" said Marguerite Higa, a parent with Save Our Schools. "She's never personally attended any of the critical negotiations. How unimportant is this to her?"

About 40 school children, parents and supporters gathered in the governor's office on the fifth floor of the State Capitol when the sit-in began about 2:30 p.m., said Higa, who was there with her daughter Raine, a third-grader at Noelani Elementary School in Manoa.

About 12 children stood in the governor's office holding paper masks of Gov. Linda Lingle. They held up a banner that said, "Where Are You?"

Higa said their request to meet with Lingle was rebuffed.

By 6 p.m., the group was down to 16 people, including five students, Higa said. She said they hoped to stay as long as they could, but that the lack of access to bathrooms was a big obstacle.

Asked if they planned to stay all night, Higa said, "We're going to try. It's so important that they get back in school."

Sit-in participants brought cots, sleeping bags and bottled water. The youngsters brought their homework, toys, books and pillows.

"The kids have been surviving on chips and dried fruit," Higa said.

The state on Oct. 23 began a series of teacher furloughs that would cut a total of 34 classroom days this school year and next. So far there have been 13 furlough days out of 17 scheduled for the 2009-10 school year.