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