Over the course of this school year, there has been much jockeying on the playgrounds of Hawaii. There has been yelling, taunting and finger-pointing all around the playgrounds of Hawaii. However, these are the actions of the adults, not the children. This year has been marred by furloughs in the public school system. The furloughs had been sought as a solution to saving money and to balancing the budget. The governor and the unions played rough and everyone caught in the middle was left walking off the playground in tears. Both parties have played the role of bully quite well.
The Honolulu Advertiser features a counter on the front page of its website that displays the number of days since the implementation of the furlough fiasco. The number as of today is at 171 days. The furlough plan called for 17 days of instruction to be cut from the calendar. The plan is scheduled to last for 2 years and affect approximately 171,000 students in 256 schools across Hawaii. Hawaii already has the shortest school year in the country and the furloughs only increased that gap. How did we get to this point? How could the legislators, Governor, and the HSTA allow this to happen to our children?
For the past 6 months, the course of action by the parties involved in the furlough decision have been to blame and name call. Governor Lingle accuses the HSTA of putting the union above student interests. The union accuses Gov. Lingle of using the children as an excuse to go after the HSTA after not supporting her run for governor. What ever the true reasons may be, the fact remains that while these two powers clash, the children of Hawaii are left on the sidelines to watch. Both parties are guilty in this fight. The only one’s innocent in this situation are the students. They were never consulted and were never told of the possibilities until it was on the door step. The HSTA was not forced to accept the furlough plan and could have given up holiday time and instructional days to avoid this. The governor could have limited her cuts in education and made requests to adjust only the paid holidays and leave. The overall Board of Education could have chosen to undergo an independent audit and pinpoint areas where money could be saved. Truth of the matter is that the adults who were put in place to oversee the education of our children, ended up acting no better than a 3-year-old throwing a temper tantrum.
Since the beginning of the furlough fiasco, the parties involved have sought out ways to end the madness. Many of the solutions involve raiding various special funds in conjunction with raising taxes. To put this into perspective, the HSTA and Gov. Lingle have decided to forgo compromising on their positions and have instead decided to put the taxpayers on the hook. That would be like two people fighting in a jewelry store, breaking all the display cases and then telling the customers in the store to clean up the mess and pay for the damages. None of this makes any sense. This is not an issue of choosing sides or who is right and who is wrong. This is an issue about doing what is right. The right thing to do is to get the children of Hawaii back into school. The right thing to do is for the HSTA to accept the 8% pay cut, accept a fewer amount of paid holidays and paid leave, and accept random drug screenings. The right thing for Gov. Lingle to do is to accept a level of responsibility in the matter, and to drop her request for governor appointed school boards. On top of these actions, a complete audit is needed into all state agencies to determine the level of waste in the government. The findings will likely find money that would come close to closing the budget deficit.
Education should be the last thing cut and the first thing boosted. Education is the key to a great society and the only way we can ensure that future generations will uphold a high standard. The solution to budget concerns should use cuts in education in the same light this country views the use of nuclear weapons on an enemy. How can we expect our children to lead the country when we have chosen to ignore them? Call your politicians and ask them to push for an independent audit. Contact the HSTA and ask that they consider taking pay cuts and giving up some paid leave to get the children back to school. Contact the governor and plead that she come back to the table and be willing to compromise. We can get involved and make a difference.