Hawaii’s 13,000 teachers and other Department of Education employees will have to take six to 10 days of unpaid leave next year, the superintendent said Thursday after the governor ordered statewide furloughs in a bid to balance the budget.

School superintendent Christina Kishimoto revealed details of the DOE’s furlough plan for its 21,900 full-time, salaried employees in an internal video message late Thursday.

Teachers will take six furlough days between Jan. 1 and June 30. All 12-month full-time employees, which include members of DOE’s central office, will take 10 furlough days in that same six-month time frame, she said in the two minute message.

“The department’s plan for next semester is less than the 9.23% — or the two days a month — that the Executive Branch is implementing,” she said in the video message.

Dept of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto DOE press conference announcing pay increases for special needs students and other teachers.
DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said she wants to “minimize any further loss of instructional days for students” under the furlough plan. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

Kishimoto, as part of the governor’s cabinet, also will be taking a 9% pay cut to her salary, spokeswoman Nanea Kalani said, confirming an earlier statement by the governor.

On Wednesday, Gov. David Ige announced his plan to impose two day a month furloughs for most unionized state workers starting Jan. 1 to cope with a budget shortfall but said the DOE and the University of Hawaii would develop their own furlough plans.

The DOE plan unveiled Thursday applies to all full-time salaried employees, except for federal or special-funded positions, substitutes, classroom aides and other part-time employees, Kishimoto said.

Hawaii schools already were suffering since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last year, forcing teachers and students to adjust to online learning and other difficulties.

“Our planned furlough days take into account that we lost nine instructional days at the beginning of the school year,” her message continued. “We wanted to minimize any further loss of instructional days for students.”

The DOE’s furlough plan means all 10-month employees will have to take at least one furlough day a month in that six-month time frame, while all 12-month employees will take 1.6 furlough days a month in that same period.

No timetable has been set for those dates, Kalani told Civil Beat. But she said a decision would be made “as soon as possible,” ideally before winter break begins on Dec. 18.

Kalani said she couldn’t elaborate on how the DOE would avoid cutting the number of school days as promised until the timetable is set.

‘The Educators’ Voices Are Ignored,’ Union Says

In a statement Thursday evening, the Hawaii State Teachers Association said it had seen the video but had not received any further details about the DOE plan.

“This is the problem when the state imposes unilateral furloughs without negotiating them: the educators’ voices are ignored,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said. “Imposing furloughs violates the collective bargaining rights of state employees that are guaranteed in our state constitution.”

The union sent out a joint press release with three other powerful unions earlier in the day slamming the governor for imposing furloughs.

The DOE pushed back the start of the school year from Aug. 4 to Aug. 17 to allow for more teacher training days as it made a last-minute move to go to all-distance learning in the face of surging COVID-19 cases at the time and the union’s resistance to bringing students back to the classroom in the fall.

The DOE is required under state law to offer 180 instructional days of learning in an academic year, a policy that was set in the aftermath of the 2009 recession when the DOE imposed “Furlough Fridays.” Although the Board of Education was asked by DOE over the summer to waive that statutory requirement to address the impacts of the pandemic, the board did not take action.

Support Civil Beat during the season of giving.

As a small nonprofit newsroom, our mission is powered by readers like you. But did you know that less than 1% of readers donate to Civil Beat?

Give today and support local journalism that helps to inform, empower and connect.

About the Author