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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 15, 2010

'Teach in' at Capitol marks school year's last furlough

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Students, parents, and teachers spent their final furlough Friday of the school season in the Capitol rotunda. State Rep. Lyla Berg sang "You Are My Sunshine" with children from Ka Paalana preschool.

Photos by DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Students folded paper airplanes using math skills, filled out worksheets on the number and names of Hawai'i's congressional delegation and conducted science experiments yesterday at the state Capitol in protest of the public school furloughs.

The so-called teach-in protest was held on the last of 17 furlough Fridays this school year by several groups that have been vocal in objecting to the lost school days that give Hawai'i the shortest school year in the nation.

"Our message is to bring focus back to the kids," said Bill Uhruh, a member of Save our Schools Hawai'i. "The state is balancing the budget on the backs of our kids. They lost 17 school days."

State lawmakers approved a measure at the close of the legislative session to use money from the "rainy day" fund to eliminate next year's 17 furlough days, but the measure still needs to be signed by Gov. Linda Lingle.

If the money is not released by the governor, the state Board of Education has the option of eliminating the 17 furlough Fridays for the 2010-11 school year and hoping that the governor will release the funds.

If the furloughs continue, the first one in the next school year is scheduled for Aug. 27.

At the Capitol, busloads of students from Voyager, a public charter school, the Wai'anae Civic Center and the HOPE for New Beginnings shelter arrived yesterday in addition to members of the Manoa Valley Christian Church furlough day care program.

Nine-year-old Yohannes Lemstra was folding a paper airplane at a table set up on the Capitol courtyard. As he checked his folds with his friend for the bullet plane, Lemstra said he normally just stays home on furlough Fridays.

"I don't like furlough Fridays," he said. "Furlough Fridays make us miss our education."

The parents have maintained that the schools need to be opened and the furlough days restored to teaching days, said Marguerite Higa, a member of Save Our Schools.

"We will do all we can to make sure Hawai'i's keiki are valued, prioritized and that education is sustainably funded," Higa said. "We believe that investing in education today supports all of Hawai'i for tomorrow."

Over at the biology table, a group of students were sticking toothpicks filled with curls of felt fabric to cover a black potato wedge. They then put one plain potato and one felt-covered potato under lamp light to see which retained heat better.

Juria Menke, a Barbers Point Elementary student, guessed it would be the naked potato wedge, not the felt furry one.

"I think this one will be hotter," Menke said pointing to the black-painted potato. "It doesn't have any fur. I like furlough Fridays because I get to play."

At a time when Isabella Marshall, a fifth-grader at Wilson Elementary School, should have been boning up on the American Revolution, she was making a collage.

"We do hope this is the last furlough day," Marshall said. "They've gone too far. We need our education."