by Andrew Walden
State Senator Jill Tokuda is staging a last minute effort to save Hawaii’s law mandating a 180-day school year.
Act 167—possibly the only positive result flowing from the fight over last year’s DoE/BoE/HSTA school furlough conspiracy—has been under attack all session. Legislators, backed by the HSTA and the DoE, have voted up HB945 which would put off implementation of the 180-day school year until 2014 or 2015 and exempt certain multi-track schools. But Tokuda chairs the conference committee which is now reconciling House and Senate versions of the bill before final legislative votes send it to Governor Abercrombie.
The other members of the Conference Committee are Democrats Sen Michelle Kidani, Sen Clarence Nishihara, Rep Roy Takumi, Rep. Marilyn Lee, Rep Della Au-Belatti, Rep Sharon Har, and the lone Republican, Rep Aaron Johanson.
The criminals in the DoE/BoE/HSTA have conspired against Act 167 since June 15, 2010--the day it was signed into law by Acting Governor Duke Aiona. They are looking forward to having Aiona’s election opponent, Neil Abercrombie, sign its repeal. With the Legislative session nearing a close, teacher’s union bosses were resting comfortably thinking the fix was in. But Wednesday morning the HSTA got wind of Tokuda’s efforts to amend HB945.
Union bosses immediately sent a false email to their membership claiming:
"We have just been blindsided by Senator Jill Tokuda. She is amending the bill that delayed implementation of Act 167. Her amendment means Act 167 will begin next school year and may add two additional instructional days and/or more instructional hours to the school calendar. The implication is that this comes without compensation."
Without compensation? The HSTA is currently in contract negotiations. Thus it is plainly false to claim that the 180 days “come without compensation.” Have HSTA leaders been negotiating on the assumption that Act 167 was not going to be enforced this fall? If so, perhaps the membership should dismiss them for incompetence.
Moreover, opponents of the 180 day law within Governor Abercrombie’s DoE administration have been claiming that the additional instructional time would cost $55M per year. If this figure sounds familiar, that is because it is so close to the ransom demanded last year from Governor Lingle by the DoE/BoE/HSTA to free the hostages and eliminate furloughs from instructional days.
The State budget is currently being negotiated in Conference Committee. Thus is it also plainly false to claim that this new ransom demand will not be paid.
One bright spot in this scenario: Only 1,200 of HSTA’s 13,000 members were craven enough to send emails to Tokuda’s office.
Another bright spot: Usually Conference Committees are places where unpopular legislative measures are slipped into legislation anonymously. For once it seems that a Conference Committee might actually turn the tables and slip in something popular.