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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lingle asks teachers to voluntarily return to classroom to end furloughs this year

Advertiser Staff

Gov. Linda Lingle last night asked all public school teachers and principals

to volunteer to return to the classrooms without pay for the remaining three

furlough days of the school year as a "gesture to heal our community"and

said she will release up to $57.2 million from the state's Hurricane Relief

Fund to restore 11 teacher furlough days next year.

Parents and members of the grassroots organization Save Our Schools praised

Lingle's actions and hoped that she could tap into federal stimulus funds or

release restricted Department of Education money to fund two of the

remaining three days this year.

Teachers already had agreed to give back one day at the end of this school


"We're thrilled she supports returning the children to school this year,"

 said Marguerite Higa, of the grassroots organization Save Our Schools.

"We're very glad she wants to get the kids back to school this year and

next. We're excited and hopeful that this will be a win-win for everyone."

On Friday, lawmakers agreed to take $67 million from the hurricane fund if

Lingle and educators can strike a deal. The money won't be released until

July 1, well after this school year is completed, Lingle said last night.

The measure requires final approval by the full House and Senate, which is

scheduled to vote on Wednesday.

"In the spirit of recognizing that each school knows what is best for their

students, I am encouraging schools to make the decision on what personnel

they need or do not need to reopen their campuses," Lingle said in a

statement last night. "I have met teachers, principals, and education

officials who tell me they want to return to the classroom. This is


"I therefore am calling upon teachers and principals to voluntarily agree

to come back for the remaining three days this school year. This would be a

welcome and significant gesture to heal our community."

If the Legislature agrees to take $67 million from the state's Hurricane

Relief Fund, Lingle would need only $57.2 million to eliminate the 11

teacher furlough days next year.

The remaining $9.8 million would be returned to the fund, Lingle said.

It is estimated that about $6.1 million a day is needed to run the school

system with all employees and operating expenses such as electricity, water

and bus transportation. Lingle said she would leave it up to individual

schools to decide which employees are "essential" to running their campuses.

Department of Education officials last night did not have an immediate

comment on Lingle's call for teachers and principals to work for free to

eliminate the remaining furlough days.

The Board of Education and the Hawai'i State Teachers Association earlier

had agreed to restoring 11 days and giving back six teacher days to

instruction with all school personnel coming to work.

Hawai'i made national news when a group of parents began a sit-in at the

governor's office in protest of the teacher furlough days. Four people were

arrested for trespassing during the eight day sit-in. The sit-in ended

without the governor agreeing to meet with the group.

"Healing is exactly what this community needs, and we are so grateful

that Lingle is taking the lead," Higa said.