Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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Longer work day without more pay dismays schoolteachers, union

By Mary Vorsino


Teachers bombarded state Sen. Jill Tokuda's office with hundreds of calls and more than 1,200 emails yesterday, concerned that a law aimed at lengthening public school days would require them to work longer hours without more pay.

Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, had proposed pushing back all of the law's requirements by two years, but this week started studying whether schools could fulfill a portion of the mandate despite the tight fiscal situation.

That drew worries from the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which sent an email to members yesterday saying Tokuda had "blindsided" the union.

"The implication is that (the extra instructional time) comes without compensation," the union email said. "According to the senator, there is no extra money."

In a conference committee meeting yesterday on education-related bills, Tokuda said she was "disappointed" and "frustrated" with the union.

"What we're asking for on this bill is, let's work together because there's got to be a way that we can do more than simply push back the effective date," she said.

HSTA President Wil Okabe said in an email to the Star-Advertiser, "Many systems and supports need to be in place before certain types of changes can be properly made and sustained."

Okabe added, "We are committed to collaborate on long-range goals to help our students achieve and not by following fads or doing what is popular today."

The state Department of Education has estimated that lengthening the school day would cost an additional $45 million to $55 million during the next school year alone.

Supporters of the law, meanwhile, question those figures and say some schools already meet the mandates for the 2011-12 school year.

In response to parents' concerns about delaying implementation of the law, Tokuda and state Rep. Roy Takumi, House Education Committee chairman, pledged to take another look.

The instructional hours law, signed in June, grew out of parent frustration during teacher furloughs last school year.

Act 167 requires elementary schools to have at least 915 hours of instruction (which averages to about five hours per day) in the 2011 school year, while middle and high schools must have 990 hours of instruction (or about 5 1⁄2 hours per day). In the 2013 school year, the law calls for all schools to expand their instructional time to 1,080 hours, or six hours per day on average.

The law also requires that schools offer at least 180 instructional days.

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