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Hawaii teachers face furloughs as pandemic hits tax revenue

December 16, 2020 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii state Department of Education plans to furlough public school teachers a total of six days through June as part of Gov. David Ige’s effort to cut spending to cope with a pandemic-induced plunge in state tax revenue.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto outlined the plan to staff in a memo emailed late Monday. Ige had announced furlough plans for other state workers last week.

The first furlough day for teachers would be Jan. 4, which had previously been scheduled as a teacher work day when students would not be in school.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many instructional days students might lose under the plan.

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Ige last week announced state employee furloughs to save $300 million over a 12-month period.

The governor said the furloughs would cut worker salaries by 9.2% and help plug a $1.4 billion hole in the budget.

About 10,000 state employees of executive agencies would stay home two days a month to achieve the savings, Ige said. He ordered the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii to develop their own furlough schedules because the institutions need to take the academic calendar into account.

The Department of Education’s furloughs will affect 22,000 employees. That includes 13,000 people who are covered by Hawaii State Teachers Association contracts and who work 10 months out of the year.

The department plans six furlough days for teachers through June. Department employees who work in other capacities all year would have 10 furlough days through June.

The state’s biggest unions, including the HSTA, last week sharply criticized Ige’s furloughs, calling them “drastic and rash.” In a joint statement, they vowed to “pursue all legal avenues to stop the unilateral implementation” of the furloughs.

Hawaii statute calls for a 180-day school year, but the number of instructional days dropped to 171 with this year’s late start due to the pandemic.

The department didn’t immediately respond to a question on how many instructional days students would have during the 2020-2021 school year as a result of both furloughs and the late start to the school year.