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Sunday, November 22, 2009
Furlough negotiations: $50M ransom offered, but unions balk at releasing hostages
By Andrew Walden @ 4:02 PM :: 3779 Views :: Energy, Environment
 

by Andrew Walden

The Governor has agreed to raid Hawaii's so-called "rainy day fund" to pay a $50 million ransom. 

Meeting in secret November 20, the House and Senate Democratic caucuses have agreed to bring the Legislature into special session to make the raid possible--but only if the unions do their part.

The Hawaii Board of Education has agreed to raise bus fares and is considering cutting back expensive school transportation services--a key demand of Legislators who argued that the BoE had not done enough to trim its costs. 

Federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima has tipped his hand that the Felix Redux lawsuits won't fly.

Now all eyes turn to the unions.  Will they trade their hostages for the Governor's ransom payment?

Governor Lingle's proposal, now backed by the Legislature's willingness to call a special session, is to throw $50 million dollars of perfectly good money at the DoE.  In exchange, the DoE, BoE, and HSTA must agree to use the $50 million as an excuse to eliminate 12 of the furlough days contained within the recently negotiated HSTA contract.  The BoE and the HSTA must also agree to transfer the remaining 15 furlough days to non-instructional days.  If agreed, no classroom time would be lost to furloughs from January 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.  The union would gain a contract with only 15 furlough days in a time period which originally called for 27.

Every penny the DoE needs to eliminate furloughs is in the DoE budget being consumed through waste, fraud, and corruption.  The extent of the waste is shown by analysis of the DoE's labor practices, a 2009 audit of Hawaii DoE procurement, and a 2007 audit showing over $66M in unsupported DoE workers comp costs, and a 2006 State Audit showing diversion of classroom funding away from the DoE Hawaiian Studies program.

Confronted this spring with a $468M DoE two-year budget cut, the HSTA, DoE, and BoE went straight to the "Washington Monument Gambit"--cutting the most sensitive and prominent services.  Hawaiian style, this means the HSTA, DoE, and BoE conspired together to make furloughs as inconvenient as possible in order to pressure the Legislature for tax increases.  Also targeted, high school athletics.  Will they now settle for a one-time shot of $50 million?

The Advertiser, November 21 outlines excuses for demanding even more ransom or refusing to release all the hostages:

Wil Okabe, the HSTA's president, asked lawmakers yesterday to respect the collective bargaining process.

"As seasoned lawmakers, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President know how the process works," Okabe said in a statement. "When a formal proposal is made, we will evaluate the proposal and respond accordingly."

Okabe also dismissed concerns by state House Speaker Calvin Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Palolo Valley, Wilhelmina Rise), that many teachers did not fully understand that furlough days would be taken away from classroom instruction when they ratified the two-year contract in September....

Several teachers, and some of their allies at the state Legislature, believe the public does not appreciate how important planning and collaboration days are when preparing for classroom instruction. The debate over furloughs has focused on the value of restoring the amount of classroom time for students rather than the quality of instruction.

School principals and other school staff — represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers — may also have objections once it becomes known how they fit into a potential agreement. The HGEA has a two-year contract that includes furloughs, while the UPW is still in contract talks.

With these potential obstacles, the negotiations could leave more teacher furlough days in place, or break down altogether.

That's not very promising, but there's more.  On November 20, The Advertiser reported:

Garrett Toguchi, the school board's chairman, said one of the issues under discussion is whether the $50 million out of the rainy day fund will be able to pay for 12 furlough days. He estimated it might be $10 million to $12 million short, since it costs about $5 million a day to operate the school system.

"We're not sure if that is enough," Toguchi said.

Not sure?  In fact it is impossible for Toguchi to know one way or the other.  As Broken Trust co-author Randy Roth has pointed out:

The DOE acknowledges an inability to conduct regular financial audits of the schools, and its chief financial officer expresses frustration over the DOE‘s antiquated systems.

"[W]e have great people, but not so good systems. … I cannot tell you how frustrating it is that I cannot give you the information you requested … and even more frustrating that requests that [Superintendent Hamamoto] sometimes makes for information cannot be fulfilled either."

One knowledgeable observer believes that the DOE is not trying to keep the public in the dark. According to him, "it‘s much worse than that".  The truth, according to him, is that they have only a vague notion of what it costs to educate a student in a particular school, or how much of the operating budget actually gets to the classroom as opposed to being consumed by the bureaucracy.  In other words, the DOE itself is in the dark. It‘s not a matter of bad people intending to do a bad job; instead, it‘s the predictable consequences of a governance system that lacks accountability.

The HGEA and the UPW are also demanding their cut of the ransom.  KITV reports November 17:

Taking $50 million from the rainy day fund will cover basic school salaries, but Hamamoto said she might need more to cover expenses of opening schools. The superintendent also said that because many of the waiver days have already been used, it will not be possible to simply replace them with instructional days in the last six months of the school year.

David Shapiro opines November 17:

State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa makes an important point about proposals to use $50 million from the state's rainy day fund to end school furloughs: Depleting the fund will make it more difficult to restore state services to the poor and needy that have been chopped in the recession.

Of course, "state services to the poor and needy" is just code for "HGEA jobs".

And finally HGEA President Jackie Ferguson-Miyamoto, in a November 17 Star-Bulletin commentary, seems to argue for a "global" solution which even maintains Hawaii's ACT 215/221 Hi-Tech cronies:

"During the 2009 legislative session, we advocated for a combination of solutions, which included budget cuts, tapping special funds, enacting early retirement legislation (not a monetary "incentive," but simply allow employees to retire early without penalty), and a temporary, modest increase to the general excise tax, which was also preferred by business groups, nonprofits, and some in the visitor and high-technology industries.

Will the HGEA demand some part of its platform also be included in any Legislative Special Session package?  If the HSTA gets away with all of the $50 million ransom from the State, while the HGEA gets nothing, that would bode ill for the HGEA's position in the budget negotiations for next session beginning in January. 

From the beginning, the budget dispute has been all about the 2010 elections.  The Democrat media -- and HSTA/DoE/Act215-221 flunkeys from Pierre Omidyar's Kanu Hawaii operation -- worked to shift blame onto the Governor.  Now, in one bold stroke, Lingle has enlisted the Democrat legislature and turned the spotlight back on to the unions, DoE, and BoE.

Sunday November 22, the only mention of furloughs came from the Kaua`i Garden Isle which editorialized:

Teachers, and more importantly teachers union representatives, have to be willing to concede certain short-term points for the future of our children.

We hope the educators remember that they are in this field to help students learn and grow.

And so we urge the teachers, like the legislators, to do their part in making this two-pronged proposal a reality.

If you’re a teacher, and you don’t agree with that bargaining position, give your union rep a call and tell them to be a bit more reasonable in this critical time of need. Together, you are serving our children to equip them for success in life after school.

In this game of chicken, both sides need to back down, take a deep breath and realize that these macho maneuverings are punishing those who need our help the most.

One might conclude the Garden Isle didn't get the memo--but maybe that's because the union-Democrat amalgam doesn't have a memo to send out.  They are still figuring out how to play this and KGI editors just forgot that no memo means no coverage. 

The media has agreed to one thing: Bury discussion of the Lingle-Abercrombie proposal to make the DoE a Department of the next Governor's administration.  In spite of Abercrombie's support, accountability is definitely not part of the union-Democrat playbook. 

---30---   

RELATED:

DoE Procurement audit: Millions wasted by "fraudulent unethical behavior"

Lingle calls for constitutional amendment: DoE Superintendent to be appointed by next Governor

Gov. Lingle announces $50M plan to get children back to class

Furloughs: Advertiser sides with “sustainability” billionaires against “Save our Sports”

Furloughs: How Unions and the DoE aim to co-opt protesting parents

Furloughs vs Layoffs: The union no-solution strategy

Hawaii budget crisis: Adult Supervision vs Team Chaos

HGEA vs HSTA: The coming legislative budget crisis

Good News: A small elite no longer runs Hawaii -- Bad News: Mufi thinks he can change that

Chaos in the Department of Education

Randall Roth: In Hawaii Education, The Buck Stops Nowhere

Randall Roth dissects Hawaii's failed Department of Education

Roth's full 45 page analysis: http://www.hsblinks.com/mu

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