A way to end the school furlough

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October 26th, 2009 :: Permalink

Aloha David ~
Mahalo for your article. I relish your statement, "If the parties care about the keiki as much as they say ..." First of all, they don't. Had they cared enough about education and our keiki, we wouldn't be here today.

Second, if Hawai'i had a responsible governor who understands education, in particular how important stability and rhythm is to a school year, she would have immediately rejected the BOE/HTSA plan to furlough teachers for 17 instructional days. Her LACK of executive leadership is unacceptable.

Third, as you are aware, I floated a draft proposal to resolve this matter two weeks ago. This plan remains a viable option.

While I respect your proposal, which has merit, I must point out as an economist that if you return 3% to teachers, where will this reduction in budget savings be made up?

The negotiators arrived at the 7.9% pay cut and resulting furloughs due to the serious and very real budgetary shortfall. If we abandon the 7.9% figure for a 5% pay cut, we must make up the 2.9% somewhere else. From where does this come?

HA reported yesterday that State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, D-14th said, "While education is on the top of our list, all essential government services are important."

This is incorrect. While every worker, public or private, is equally valued in our society, we recognized that CEOs or administrators should be paid more as they shoulder greater responsibility. We agree as well the duties of a police officer represents greater urgency to society than a postal clerk. While both individuals are equally valued, we can wait a day to mail a letter but cannot turn our back on violent crime for a minute.

Our keiki are critically important to our future. We all recognize this. In addition the education year has begun. It is a train rolling down the track. By the time we get through the 2010 legislative session, their school year will nearly be over. Therefore, we must act decisively now.

Urgency rules the day, as you correctly pointed out. Yet we cannot further irresponsible government. This means establishing priorities. And we simply cannot ignore 3% more in unfunded obligations.

This is why a special session is required. We must pay our bills. Since I proffered my draft proposal, we have learned there are federal education dollars to be considered. We must still consider borrowing from the Hurricane relief fund. While I disagree with Lingle's management of this crisis, she is accurate when she says, "The money just doesn't exist."

It is PONO for you to call on our better nature to meet our obligations to our keiki and education; but we also must act with KULEANA in regard to balancing our budget.


Aloha ~
@Bongo: You are correct my friend ... there are some responses in life that require a bit more than 140 characters and our intolerance for complex analysis is one reason we're facing this current catastrophe.

@ David: Good point and your proposal has merit. My concern is this leaves school funding somewhat open ended and I would prefer to close it for this school year. I also believe 5% is too high. My proposal asked teachers to sacrifice 2-3%.

We are dealing with tremendous fear at this time. When you tell a family they will lose 8% of their primary breadwinner's salary, they do not wait to get their first check. They begin cutting back immediately. I don't believe 5% changes this psychological response. I do believe a 2.5% cut is something people can absorb and remain positive.

When 13,000 public worker families get hit with a 8% (or 5%) cut, they reduce buying from the private sector. This forces more layoffs (or postpones new hiring). This in turn reduces government revenue and the shortfall simply continues to gets larger.

This is Great Depression funk. We must stop this hemorrhaging and fear is our enemy right now. The Hurricane fund must be tapped; this pile of money is of no psychological value sitting in a vault. I believe Education secretary Duncan has some money for Hawai'i as well.

While I believe your proposal should be on the table, I urge us to see if we can do a bit more to plug this gap. We're going to have our hands full in 2010.