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Reason Foundation

Hawaii Teacher Furlough Follies: A Test Case for a Longer School Year?

Lisa Snell
October 23, 2009, 1:48pm

Education Week reports that in Hawaii a federal judge refused to block the first of 17 teacher furlough days to save on Hawaii's education budget. School will be out for 17 Fridays beginning today.

A federal judge on Thursday refused to immediately block teacher furloughs set to begin in Hawaii until he could fully study two lawsuits filed by parents opposed to the budget-cutting maneuver.

The decision by U.S. District Judge David Ezra meant the state's teachers would on Friday take the first of 17 days of furloughs this school year as planned, forcing parents to find something else to do with their children on what is normally a public school day.

Dr. Greene has perhaps the best take on this in his education post Getting Less  for Less:

Hawaii public school kids will spend 163 days in school compared to about 180 for most kids nationwide. . . .

So, teachers work 9.4% fewer days for 8% less pay, full benefits and two more years of guaranteed employment.  It’s not a bad deal… as long as you are a teacher.  Kids will be shortchanged, parents have to scramble for daycare, and the state gives away more than it gets in savings. . . .

The only risk for the teacher union in doing this is that we might discover that student achievement is unaffected by 17 fewer days of school.  If that’s the case why not cut 34 days of school for 16% less pay?  Or maybe get rid of it altogether.

Perhaps Hawaii's furlough plan can become a test case for President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan's proposal to add more time to the school year. If 17 fewer days do not make a difference, maybe we just need to use the time kids already spend in school more effectively.


Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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