Save Our Schools 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 Hawai’i’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.
HONOLULU, HAWAII – Twenty Save Our Schools Hawai’i members, who held a days long sit-in at the state capitol in an attempt to talk with Gov. Linda Lingle about ending Furlough Fridays, will be in Honolulu District Court this Friday (Sept. 10) for sentencing in trespassing arrests and citations issued last spring.
Some of the SOS Hawaii members — set to go before Judge Russel Nagata in Courtroom 7C at 2:15 p.m. — have accepted a plea agreement from the state and expect to be sentenced to perform community service, possibly in Hawaii public schools. Others have rejected the state’s offer and will plead no contest. Four adults were arrested for criminal trespassing during the sit-in, and others were cited for criminal trespassing and violations.
The defendants will be given an opportunity to address the court, and the proceedings will be open to the public.
SOS Hawaii defendant Clare Hanusz said: “None of us have any regrets for what we felt compelled to do on behalf of Hawai’i’s public school kids. We did not set out to get cited and arrested. We set out to dialogue with Governor Lingle and help reach solutions to the Furlough Friday crisis. And it was our crisis — our kids were missing school, and Hawai’i’s educational system was a national and international shame.” Hanusz added, “We should get time served toward any community service sentence.”
Like the other defendants, Marguerite Higa, who was one of four arrested, had no prior criminal record. “I’m a mom, and an educator. I saw the effect of the furloughs on my daughter and her schoolmates and other children throughout Hawai’i. I saw what this was doing to homeless kids, to kids who could not afford pricey enrichment programs, and how this was disrupting my daughter’s education. I could not sit back and be complacently watch the furloughs go on week after week.”
SOS Hawai’i — a grassroots group of community members, students and parents advocating for quality public education — formed last fall when 17 Furlough Fridays were placed on the 2009-2010 school calendar as a means to saving the state money.
SOS Hawai’i organized rallies, teach-ins, student-produced art displays, sign-waving and other events aimed at halting furloughs and 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 and Governor Lingle had repeatedly declined requests to meet with SOS Hawai’i, members resorted to holding a sit-in at the governor’s office. Even then — after days of simply waiting — the Governor refused to meet with them. The sit-in drew national and international media attention, thereby helping prod action toward ending the furloughs.
In late May, shortly before the end of the school year, Lingle and other state leaders declared an end to Furlough Fridays. The financial solution: $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.
Furlough Fridays left Hawai’i with the shortest-in-the-nation school year. The 2009-10 year had 163 instructional days. The national average is about 180 days.
In response to public outcry led by SOS Hawai’i and other groups opposed to Furlough Fridays, state lawmakers drafted a bill — signed into law in mid-June — that aims to end the shortest-year status by requiring a minimum of 180 school days starting in 2011-12. It also asks the state and educators’ labor union to draft a proposal to increase the minimum number of instructional days to 190
Last month, when Hawai’i secured $75 million in the nationwide $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” school reform grant competition, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan lauded our state for ending Furlough Fridays. Last year, Duncan criticized our shortest-in-the-nation school year.
Despite the effective efforts of SOS Hawai’i defendants in helping to end furloughs and Governor Lingle’s call for healing and reconciliation in the aftermath of the furloughs, the state is continuing to press charges against the parents and student protesters.
The work of the grassroots group to better our public schools is continuing. SOS Hawai’i is hosting moderated candidate forums at which candidates on this month’s primary election ballot are sharing their plans for public schools and responding to questions submitted by students, parents and others. The next forum — gubernatorial candidates — will be held 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 12) in the Architecture Auditorium at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Submitted by SOS