LIHUE—Wearing white tee-shirts that read “Flunk Furloughs,” a group of concerned parents, teachers, and citizens gathered on the state building steps in Lihue this afternoon to protest plans to cut costs by closing schools on some Fridays.
Jack Yatsko, a member of the Kapaa Middle School Parent Teacher Association, noted that parents have been told they could be prosecuted for educational neglect if their children are absent more than 10 days without a medical excuse.
“Now the government is forcing students to lose 34 days—a month and a half,” he said. “This is educational neglect.”
The rally was attended by about 80 persons, including Kauai Sen. Gary Hooser, Reps. Roland Sagum and Jimmy Tokioka, Councilman Tim Bynum, and the governor’s Kauai representative, Laurie Yoshida.
“Your kids and my kids are not a poker chip in a high stakes game of contract negotiations,” Yatsko said, in reference to the instructional cuts that were agreed upon during contract negotiations between the Hawaii State Teachers Association and Department of Education. Gov. Linga Lingle recently approved the contract.
Mahina McGary, a Kapaa Middle School eighth grader, said that “most students are pretty happy about furlough Fridays.” But they’re also worried about the extra homework it might cause, she said, as well as the increased pressure they’ll feel to pass standardized tests.
A “people’s proclamation” passed out to the crowd noted that four of Kauai’s 16 schools are in “restructuring” under the No Child Left Behind Act, while 67 percent of the island’s public schools have not met the average yearly progress that it requires.
McGary said the lost school days could make it harder for autistic and special needs children to get ahead, and that many lower-income families who rely on the free school breakfast and lunch program would suffer additional hardships.
Kapaa parent Jimmy Trujillo said: “We’ve got long-term issues. We shouldn’t solve them on our children.”
Trujillo also read a letter from former Councilman Mel Rapozo that stated: “I simply cannot believe this is even happening. We are making our children pay for poor management and fiscal ineptitude.”
Yatsko and other parents said the state could explore such options as the rainy day fund, the hurricane fund, lotteries, and higher taxes to avoid cutting education. With the furloughs, Hawaii would have the second shortest school year in the nation.
Hooser has proposed convening a special session to address the issue. Wailua parent Tracy Murakami noted that if the governor could call a special session to help the Superferry run, she could surely call one to deal with education funding.