SOS Hawai’i, the committee organizing a Hawai’i chapter of Parents for Public Schools,  and the American Studies Graduate Students Association at the University of Hawai’i are co-sponsoring three moderated forums at which candidates for the state Board of Education, Lieutenant Governor and Governor will share their visions for public schools and respond to questions submitted by students, parents and others.

• Board of Education At-Large candidates, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mon. Aug. 23   
• Lieutenant Governor candidates, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mon. Sept. 6   
• Governor candidates, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sun. Sept 12

Neal Milner, a UH political science professor, local political commentator/analyst and former UH-Manoa ombudsman, will serve as moderator. All three forums will be held  at the university’s Architecture Auditorium, near University Avenue and Metcalf Street (across from Atherton YMCA). Parking: metered parking is free after 6 p.m., a pay lot is available adjacent to the auditorium building. Parking is free on Sun. and holidays.

Questions from the public — especially parents and students — are welcome and may be submitted to http://www.sos808.org or by e-mail to info@sos808.org
Students and children whose questions are selected will have the opportunity to ask their questions in-person during the forums.

The upcoming primary election will be held Saturday Sept. 18, and the general election Tuesday Nov. 2.

SOS Hawai’i, a group of concerned community members, students, and parents for quality public education, organized last year in response to Furlough Fridays.

Faced with a tight state budget, political and education leaders in Hawai’i last year cut 17 instructional days, leaving our state with a cringeworthy distinction: the shortest academic year among K-12 public schools nationwide.

SOS Hawai’i played a pivotal role in ushering out Furlough Fridays and advocating for a longer and academically stronger school year. The group organized teach-ins, student-produced art displays and sign-waving events aimed at heightening awareness about public education concerns. Last spring, when it appeared that state leaders were poised to continue Furlough Fridays during the 2010-11 school year, parents staged a sit-in at Gov. Linda Lingle’s office, which drew national media attention.

During the final few days of the 2009-10 school year, Lingle and other state leaders declared an end to Furlough Fridays. The financial solution included: $57 million from the state’s hurricane relief fund, a $10 million line of credit from local banks, and teachers agreeing to forego some planning days. Also, $2.2 million in federal economic stimulus funds was directed to 31 charter schools.

A bill signed into law in mid-June requires a minimum of 180 school days starting in the 2011-12 year. It also asks the state and educators’ labor union to write a proposal to step up the minimum number of instructional days to 190.

During the last school year — when Furlough Fridays were in place — Hawai’i schools had only 163 instructional days. The national average is about 180 days.

Also, when the new law was announced, state officials noted that Hawai’i would set a required number of hours of instructional time. Previously, Hawai’i was the only state without such a statute-specified requirement in place.  

Hawai’i students attend class an average of four hours and 43 minutes a day while most states require five-and-a-half to six hours of instructional time, officials said. (Six-hours daily adds up to 1,080 hours per school year.)

When the 180-day minimum begins in 2011-2012, elementary schools will be required to offer 915 hours of instruction; middle and high schools, 990 hours of instruction. In the 2013 – 2015 years, schools must retain the 180 days and expand instructional time to 1,080 hours for elementary, middle and high schools.

Charter schools will be exempt from the requirements. Some charter schools already have longer school days.

For additional information about the upcoming forums or SOS Hawai’i, please contact Marguerite Higa   sos.higa@gmail.com  (808-636-3283)
Corey Rosenlee    coreyrosenlee@gmail.com  (808-741-5592)

Save Our Schools Hawaii: www.sos808.org

S.O.S. Hawaii stands with Hawaii’s public and charter school children and teachers. We are united behind one promise: we will do all we can to make sure Hawaii’s keiki and teachers are valued, prioritized, and that education is sustainably funded. We believe that investing in education today supports all of Hawai’i for tomorrow.

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