Wrong on Furlough Fridays

Mazie Hirono's campaign thinks we don't remember what happened.

I'm not following the Lingle vs. Hirono race for U.S. Senate all that closely, but I do have my antenna up on the subject of public education in Hawaii. It's something the magazine covers extensively every year. So when I received a press release from Mazie Hirono's campaign today alleging that former Gov. Linda Lingle was entirely responsible for the Furlough Fridays debacle in 2009, which cost Hawaii's students 17 instructional days, I took the bait and watched the campaign video.

The video may convince those with short memories, but even those people can Google the historical record, which is this: While the Lingle administration definitely required state departments to make cuts in the face of steeply declining tax receipts as the economy tanked, the specific decision to cut that many instructional days was something worked out between the Department of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association. Here's what we said about that at the time.

There's a link in that Off My Desk item to a news report of the time with more details, I'll repeat that here: a Sep. 25, 2009 article in The Honolulu Advertiser.

Key quote from the Advertiser: "In scheduling 17 furlough days that will shut down Hawaii's public schools, the Department of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association agreed not to use any of the six available waiver and professional development days to offset the loss of instructional time or relieve parents of child-care worries."

Hirono's campaign conveniently leaves this fact out. But then, Hirono is endorsed by the HSTA, which may explain why her campaign's memory of those days is so selective.

We've pointed out, for years now, that one of the problems with such a massive, politicized state bureaucracy is that it can find political cover when it needs it, to shield the adults in the system from any accountability, no matter how poorly they serve the students and the taxpayers. It was obvious in 2009, and should be remembered now, that Furlough Fridays was nothing less than organized government labor making sure the public would hurt just as much as the union over pay cuts. It was a strike, in everything but name. Now, if Hirono and Lingle want to have a frank discussion about that, we might be able to make some progress on education in Hawaii.