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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 24, 2010

Red numbers a reminder of Fridays lost

By Mark Platte

Maybe you haven't noticed it, but on the far-left column of the front page is a big and bold number that signifies the number of days that have passed since the first teacher furlough began on Oct. 23, 2009.

We started this Wednesday with the number 89 and today we're up to 93 and counting. Online, we also have a link (http://furloughfridays.honadvblogs.com) that allows parents to sound off.

The point of running the tally since the first furlough is to remind our community what a travesty it has become that nobody has been able to resolve the issue of restoring lost school time. So we've placed the number out there each day in a prominent position as a reminder that the clock is still ticking.

When the eighth lost day of instruction came and went on Jan. 15, staffer Loren Moreno took a step back and looked at the issue afresh. He wrote about the two formal proposals that the HSTA and Gov. Linda Lingle's office swapped each rejected by the other. He detailed Lingle's first proposal back in November, the tentative agreement between the BOE and the HSTA which Lingle rejected in December and her second rejection of the plan on Jan. 6.

The governor's office took Moreno to task and said they weren't rejecting anything. They simply believed that using $35 million from the rainy-day fund to restore five instructional days was an inflated number and that they were working to restore classroom days over two years. Lingle came out with a new plan the next day that would have used $50 million from the rainy-day fund to end 24 furlough days over two years.

A week later, the HSTA said it had no details of the plan. In the interim, the schools superintendent quit on the spot. The governor will propose tomorrow that the new superintendent should be a cabinet post. Today we learned from another Moreno story that the HSTA would rather cut Lingle out altogether and get the Legislature to fund the $35 million, which is most likely impossible.

What's wrong with this picture?

A prominent and longtime business leader expressed the frustration everyone is feeling these days.

"Like the average citizen, I am not sure who is right and who is wrong and I don't care," he said. "Just fix it already."

Thus the large red numbers will continue until there's a resolution. It may do nothing, but it will be a constant reminder that we're all fed up.

Mark Platte is senior vice president and editor of The Advertiser. Reach him at 525-8080 or e-mail him at mplatte@honoluluadvertiser.com. Or follow his Twitter updates at www.twitter.com/markplatte.