HONOLULU — The state Department of Education plans to furlough public school teachers 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.
“The department’s furlough days take into account that we lost nine instructional days at the beginning of this school year, and we wanted to minimize any further loss of instruction for students,” Kishimoto wrote. “Your commitment and dedication have remained unwavering throughout this pandemic, and this situation is not a reflection of all the hard work you have and continue to deliver on.”
The DOE’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. According to the DOE’s plan, 10-month employees will have six furlough days and 12-month employees will have 10 furlough days between Jan. 1 and June 30. All employees will be furloughed Jan. 4 and Feb. 12.
If the state furloughs continue past those dates, the DOE’s projected furlough days for both 10- and 12-month employees are March 1, March 22, April 23 and June 1. Twelve-month employees also will be furloughed March 15, June 18, June 25 and June 28.
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 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. It wasn’t immediately clear how many instructional days students might lose under the plan.