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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hawaii senate measure requires at least 190 school days

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Education Writer

Public school students could spend a minimum of 190 days and 36 hours a week in class, based on a bill passed out of the Senate's Committee on Education and Housing yesterday.

While the measure was introduced as a result of widespread discontent with public teacher furloughs, the bill, if it survives the legislative session, would not affect the current furloughs. It would not take effect until the 2011-12 school year.

Senate Bill 2336 is similar to a measure moving through the state House House Bill 2486 that would mandate a minimum of 1,080 hours a year for elementary and middle school students and 1,260 hours for high school students.

Sen. Norman Sakamoto, chairman of the Senate's education committee, said the bill is an acknowledgment that Hawai'i is one of the only states that does not mandate instructional time in state law. Sakamoto said he preferred a bill that specified both number of days and hours of instruction.

"When looking at where our state is compared to other states, against the entire nation, we are short," Sakamoto said.

Teacher furloughs, which began Oct. 23, dropped the total instructional days in Hawai'i to 163, the lowest in the country, according to data from the Education Commission of the States. Thirty states have 180 instructional days, which is considered the unofficial standard across the country.

Both the state Board of Education and state Department of Education say they are in favor of increasing instructional time. However, they are concerned about how the added time will be paid for.

The amount of instructional hours in Hawai'i's public schools varies from five to six hours a day, depending on the school, education officials said.

At least 15 states offer fewer instructional hours per day than Hawai'i's public schools, although Hawai'i falls below the national standard 6 1/2-hour school day, according to a survey of states conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Rep. Roy Takumi, chairman of the state House's Committee on Education, said comparing Hawai'i's instructional hours to other states is difficult because many states do not calculate class time the same way.

"We obviously have to do a lot of work to define instructional hours and what that includes. The challenge is that every state has a different way of calculating instructional hours. For example, Illinois includes study hall, they include school dances, as part of their instructional hours. We don't. We don't include recess. Other states do," Takumi said.

Also yesterday, the Senate's Education and Housing committee passed out a bill that would give voters the opportunity to decide in November whether the state Constitution should be amended to allow the governor to appoint the BOE from a pool of candidates selected by an advisory committee. Those appointments would need to be approved by the state Senate.

The measure, SB 2570, and its companion, SB 2571, are similar to a bill advancing in the state House that would ask voters if the state Constitution should be changed to create an appointed BOE similar to the University of Hawai'i Board of Regents.