Categorized | Government, News

Special committee to consider approaches to teacher furloughs

MEDIA RELEASE

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa has announced a Special Committee of the State Senate will convene to consider the options available to address the question of teacher furloughs.

“I am proud that my colleagues are stepping up with a battery of ideas to solve the teacher furlough problem,” Hanabusa said, “but every option raises questions. We need to look at not only whether money is available, but how we can ensure that any money we appropriate gets released by the governor and goes to education. We also need to answer some fundamental questions about whether any action we take will interfere with a collectively bargained agreement between the state, the DOE, and the teachers’ union. The right to collective bargaining is guaranteed in our state Constitution, so this is a significant concern.”

She added, “The worst thing we can do is build false hopes. We need to act responsibly. This is a complicated situation and a lot of different parties will have to come together to work out a solution. But this committee will get the ball rolling.”

The Senate Special Committee on Education Funding will be chaired by Sen. Brian Taniguchi, and include Sens. Will Espero (Vice-chairman), David Ige, Dwight Takamine, Jill Tokuda, and Shan Tsutsui, along with Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings.

“If other senators would like to sit in on the committee hearings, they may,” Hanabusa said.

Hemmings said he is looking forward to working with the committee.

“I am most pleased as Senate Minority Leader that the Senate President is looking for ways to get kids back to school. I think this is certainly an issue where reasonable people can work together to find reasonable solutions,” he said.

Espero, the committee vice-chairman, said he believes immediate action is required.

“The loss of 17 classroom days is unacceptable and embarrassing,” he said. “We have a responsibility to take action and address the situation for the sake of our children, and I believe we have the means to do so.

The committee’s primary goal will be to review the variety of approaches that have been proposed to end the teacher furloughs.

The committee will also consider whether to recommend that the legislature return for a Special Session before the regular session that will convene in January.

“The Senate cannot call a Special Session on its own,” Hanabusa said. “That takes the concurrence of two-thirds of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. But we can make a recommendation, and I believe the committee will do so.”

Hanabusa also pointed out a successful Special Session would rely on the cooperation of other interests.

“We need to keep in mind that given the threat of a veto and potential legal challenges to any interference in a contract that is the product of collective bargaining, a Special Session only makes sense if we can get all parties—the administration, the DOE, and the HSTA—to the table and agree, at least in principle, with what we plan to do. Otherwise, we would be raising false hopes and expending state resources on a futile effort.”

The committee will release its hearing schedule at later this week.

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