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School reform at no cost

The law requiring longer instructional time need not be delayed because of state budget woes

By Kathy Bryant-Hunter and Melanie Bailey

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:27 a.m. HST, Apr 28, 2011

Act 167, the student instructional hours law, was adopted in 2010 to:

» Prevent future student furloughs.

» Provide instructional time equity between Hawaii students and their mainland peers.

» Establish transparency for the amount of instructional time provided at schools.

Act 167 sent a clear message that the Legislature was taking education seriously and that reduction of student instructional time would never happen again due to budget issues.

However, now the Legislature is considering Senate Bill 945 HD2, which proposes to delay implementation of Act 167 for at least three years because the cost is reported to be $55 million.

We firmly believe that the first phase of the law, which begins next fall, can be implemented without any additional funds. The law should not be delayed.

So what's going on? Where did the $55 million figure come? The two money questions are:

» Can the law work within the current teacher contract?

» Can schools meet the law without cost?

First, Act 167 is about student time, not teacher time. This is an important distinction. In Act 167, students' instructional time is the amount of time they are in school less recess, lunch and passing time, including homeroom, advisory, tutoring and study hall.

To avoid additional costs, student instruction time must fit into a teacher's seven-hour day.

We analyzed the bell schedule of 25 percent of Hawaii public schools. The good news is more than 75 percent of elementary schools are already in compliance with Act 167, so obviously no new funds are necessary. Only two secondary schools are in compliance, but they prove it can be done and should be models for other schools.

See the chart at right for a sample of instructional hours. As you can see, the teachers are not being asked to work more than allowed under the first phase of the law.

Implementing the first phase of Act 167 is not a money issue. It simply requires each school to change its bell schedule. This is absolutely achievable within the contract, and does not ask any teacher to work additional time without pay. Implementation requires two-thirds of teachers at each school to approve any bell schedule change.

We urge principals, teachers, school community councils, parents and students to review their bell schedules and demand compliance with Act 167. We urge the Legislature to amend SB 945 HD2 and implement the law.

———

Editor's note: A legislative conference committee will discuss a compromise bill on this issue at 2 p.m. today in Room 329 of the state Capitol.






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