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Superintendent says it will be tough to provide more school instructional time

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Public schools in Hawaii will have a hard time complying with a new state law requiring more instructional time next school year, Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said.

The law, passed following the state’s embarrassment of having the nation’s shortest school year because of budget cuts, was meant to guarantee that Hawaii schools would have at least 180 instructional days annually with 5.5 hours of daily class time in high schools and 5 hours, 5 minutes in elementary schools.

Hawaii students now attend class for an average of 4 hours and 43 minutes per day, short of standards in most other school districts nationwide.

Matayoshi said the teachers’ labor union is arguing that adding instructional time will lengthen their work day — contractually set at 7 hours — and require higher pay.

"We’re between a rock and a hard place, between a statute and a collective bargaining agreement, so we have to find a solution," Matayoshi said. "It would be a scramble for schools, but they’d make the effort for the kids to make the schedule work."

Parent Melanie Bailey, who pushed for the new law last year, said teachers should be able to fit a few more minutes of extra instructional time into their existing work day, which would eliminate the need for them to be paid more.

"Schools on the mainland are providing this amount of instructional time, and that’s what schools in Hawaii need to do. We’re not asking for anything unreasonable," Bailey said. "It’s the right thing to do."

Besides instructional time, teachers get 30 minutes daily for lunch and 40 minutes for preparation, leaving them with about an hour of miscellaneous time that could be used for education, she said.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe said he’s skeptical of claims that extra instructional time can be inserted into teachers’ schedules, which also are filled with departmental meetings, planning, extracurricular activities and recess.

"If it’s going to extend the number of working hours teachers have now, they need to be compensated for it," Okabe said.

Negotiations between the state and the teachers’ union have already begun. Their existing labor contract expires in June.

Matayoshi said she’s requesting changes in the instructional time law to ease requirements on crowded multitrack schools, where it’s impractical to add teaching hours.

But she said she isn’t requesting exemptions for any other schools.

Schools closed and teachers were furloughed on 17 days during the 2009-2010 school year following labor contract negotiations over how to absorb cuts to state government money allocated for public education.

A full calendar was restored for this school year by spending $67 million from a hurricane relief fund.

The instructional time law calls for even more teaching in 2013, when all schools must expand instructional time to 1,080 hours.


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