POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 22, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 12:05 p.m. HST, Dec 24, 2010
Two mothers from Kailua were instrumental this year in putting an end to Furlough Fridays for public school students.
Melanie Bailey and Kathy Bryant-Hunter drafted a bill to require a minimum of 180 days in a school year and increase student instructional hours.
They spent countless hours researching and making calls to legislators before their lobbying paid off. House Bill 2486, signed into law, will bring student instructional hours up to the national average and, over time, exceed it. The new law will take effect in the 2011-2012 school year.
THEY MADE A DIFFERENCEEvery day through year's end, the Star-Advertiser will recognize people who changed Hawaii in 2010. Some are familiar names; others shunned the spotlight. But all made a difference. The winners were chosen by Star-Advertiser editors from nominations submitted by staff members and readers.
The duo's work to solve the problem started soon after the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the state agreed to taking 17 teacher furlough days from instructional time, reducing the number of no-school days to 163.
Hawaii drew national attention as rallies were held at the state Capitol by parents and various groups that included Hawaii Education Matters and Save Our Schools Hawaii. A sit-in at Gov. Linda Lingle's office and Washington Place led to the arrest of several members of SOS-Hawaii for trespassing. "We thought keeping kids out of school was ridiculous," said SOS-Hawaii member Marguerite Higa.
Bailey and Bryant-Hunter, members of the Parent Teacher Student Association at Aikahi Elementary School, decided to look into a long-term solution.
"We don't want this to ever happen again. ... We wanted to make sure that this wasn't an option in the future," said Bryant-Hunter.
Bailey and another parent made calls to public elementary and high schools around the country and learned Hawaii was the only state where the number of days in a school year is not set by law, but done through collective bargaining with the teachers union. They also learned Hawaii had the lowest number of student instructional hours of any state.
"That's when we became very concerned," said Bryant-Hunter.
The discovery pushed them into action that ended in success with the signing of a bill into law. The minimum 180 school days for the 2011-2013 school years includes 915 instructional hours for elementary school students, an average of five hours a day; and 990 instructional hours for high school students, an average of 5 1/2 hours a day.
"They are definitely amazing role models for other parents and community members in becoming involved and making a difference in our school system," said state Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Education Committee.