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Hawaii public schools superintendent reveals furlough dates for teachers, other employees

  • JAMM AQUINO / JUNE 24, 2019
                                Hawaii schools superintendent Christina Kishimoto, seen here listening to public testimony during a 2019 community meeting in Wahiawa, has informed public school teachers and employees of her plan for furloughs starting next month.

    JAMM AQUINO / JUNE 24, 2019

    Hawaii schools superintendent Christina Kishimoto, seen here listening to public testimony during a 2019 community meeting in Wahiawa, has informed public school teachers and employees of her plan for furloughs starting next month.

Teachers will be furloughed on average one day a month starting Jan. 4 to help cope with the state budget shortfall, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto informed public school employees late Monday.

Gov. David Ige has called for two furlough days a month for state workers, but the superintendent said in her memo that she wanted to minimize further loss of instructional time for students.

So 10-month employees of the Department of Education — including teachers, counselors, school librarians and registrars — would be furloughed an average of one day a month under her plan. Twelve-month employees, including principals and office staff, would be furloughed a total of 10 days between Jan. 1 and June 30.

The first furlough day, Jan. 4, had been scheduled as a teacher’s work day with no students on campus in any case. The second, Feb. 12, falls during the week when teachers were scheduled to have one day with no students for Teacher’s Institute Day, a date that differed by island.

Beyond February, Kishimoto’s memo projects possible furlough dates that would take effect only “if Gov. Ige determines that circumstances require continuation of the furlough.”

Those projected furlough days for 10-month employees would fall on: March 1, March 22, April 23 and June 1.

For 12-month employees, the furlough days are the same for the first two months, Jan. 4 and Feb. 12. Their projected furlough days beyond February are: March 1, March 15, March 22, April 23, June 1, June 18, June 25 and June 28.

“The department’s furlough days take into account that we lost nine instructional days at the beginning of this school year and we wanted to minimize any further loss of instruction for students,” Kishimoto wrote in the memo to employees. “Your commitment and dedication have remained unwavering throughout this pandemic, and this situation is not a reflection of all the hard work you have and continue to deliver on.”

Her memo says the governor’s authority to require furloughs is based on “the inherent and reserved rights of public employers as recognized under Hawaii law,” as well as the governor’s emergency powers.

Public employee unions have cried foul over the proposed furloughs. The Hawaii State Teachers Union and the Hawaii Government Employees Association say their contracts have no clauses to cover furloughs, although they do allow layoffs.

Senate President Ron Kouchi has said he expects the governor’s furlough plan could end up in litigation.

The unions argue that public employees are providing crucial services to people in need during the economic crisis, such as food and rental assistance, education, rural health care and mental health services.

“We appreciate the efforts of lawmakers to find a better solution,” HSTA, HGEA and the United Public Workers said in a statement Monday to the Star-Advertiser. “Our members are on the front lines and see the devastation every day. Let’s not add public workers to the lists of those applying for services, instead of providing them.”

Ige argues that layoffs would be “more devastating to our economy and our state employees than furloughs.”

His proposal for twice-monthly furloughs for state workers aims to save $300 million annually. The state forecasts a $1.4 billion shortfall in each of the next four years due to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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