Hawaii public school teachers and other 10-month employees are scheduled to lose six days of pay for the rest of the academic year. Year-round staff stand to lose 10 days.
In an email last night, state Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto informed public school employees of its furlough schedule. Kishimoto wrote she wanted to minimize loss of instructional time for students.
Ten-month employees such as teachers, counselors, librarians and registrars will be furloughed an average of one day a month. Twelve-month employees, like principals and office staff, will be furloughed an average of two days a month.
Some wonder how the dates were chosen.
“The dates are just thrown at us ten o’clock at night. Here you go. You know, these are your days you’re not working now and not getting paid,” Kaua’i teacher Caroline Freudig said.
Freudig believes DOE leaders should have consulted with teachers to create the furlough schedule.
The first furlough day is January 4 a teacher’s work day with no student instruction. But the problem some teachers say that January 4 is the day between semesters and before students return to the classroom.
DOE says staff cannot work on furlough days.
“That’s just a difficult concept to grasp because I know a lot of teachers, my friends, and even myself we don’t stop working,” Norman Sales, Literacy Coach at Farrington High School, said.
“Some of our teachers are gonna prep anyway on the 4th which means they are working without pay and doing on their own time,” Freudig said.
Then there’s the second furlough day February 12, which is Teacher’s Institute Day on Kaua’i, when the public teachers’ union is scheduled to meet with its members and there’s no student instruction.
Freudig says it’s problematic because it’s a contractual work day for union members.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association is consulting attorneys and plans to take legal action to block the furloughs from taking effect. The union’s president wants Governor David Ige to reconsider.
“Congress is working on a deal where the latest proposal had $82 billion for education. Our local legislators have said that they think that furloughs are too early and that they want an opportunity to try to find other ways of creating revenue. And so I don’t know why the governor is rushing to impose illegally these furloughs and it should give both Congress and our state legislature a chance,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said.
Some believe teachers won’t be the only ones harmed.
“This impacts not only our keiki, but predominantly, our keiki from high poverty areas. And they have a longer time where they’re hit by these economic recessions and these cuts to education,” Rosenlee said.
“When you keep continuing to push teachers to expect them to do things outside of their work hours, then you’re saying basically nothing else matters in their lives,” Freudig said.
Teachers and school staff KITV-4 Island News spoke with say morale is already low, after months of managing online instruction, budget cuts, student absenteeism, and say now they face pressure to hold standardized testing for students that have not had a full educational experience.
They worry more teachers will retire or take leave.