Q&A Senator David Y. Ige

Hawaii State Senator David Y. Ige, who represents Pearl City in the 16th Senatorial District, recently sat down with to discuss the current Hawaii Department of Education Furlough Friday budget crisis.

Senator Ige graduated from Pearl City High School in 1975. Back in 1975, PCHS was in the expansion process. New buildings were being built and completed each year. PCHS enrollment would reach over 2000 students from grades 9-12 within the next couple of years.

Teachers and staff were added as the new buildings and classrooms were completed. Being employed by the DOE pretty much guaranteed job security and a decent retirement down the road. Well, this is no longer 1975 and the reality of the current DOE budget crisis has swallowed 2009 and is about to take a huge bite out of 2010 and beyond.

As a State Legislator, Senator Ige has the responsibility of representing the best interest of our students. Number one on the list is keeping them in school. Where will the money come from to do so?

Recent developments with regard to Furlough Friday’s, has 95 Hawaii public schools applying to turn scheduled teacher training days into instructional days. This would allow teachers and students to get back a portion of the days that they have lost to furloughs.

Here are Senator Ige’s comments from the following Q&A:

Q: Can you give us your thoughts with regard to the current DOE Furlough Friday situation?

A: “I’m personally frustrated and think we can do better. I think it’s really sad to me that we are sacrificing the children of Hawaii to deal with the budget crisis. I really think that there are sources of money that we should get access to.”

Q: Where would the money come from?

A: “There’s 180 million dollars in the Hurricane Fund that we can figure out some way to make available to solve this problem. And remember, Congress has authorized more than 100 million dollars of stimulus funds and they’ve been designated for Education even though the Governor has the flexibility to spend it anyway she wants to. So there’s 280 million dollars right there that I cannot understand why we can’t apply.”

Q: 100 million dollars from Congress for Hawaii Educational needs?

A: “Explicitly for Hawaii, Congress had designated it for Education but again the Governor has the flexibility to spend it anyway she wants to.”

Q: In your opinion, why hasn’t the Governor released the funds?

A: “I’m not certain. I don’t really understand. The Congress authorized the funds available in March so she’s had access to that money for at least four months. I understand that there are conditions to accepting the money and I don’t fully know what all those are but clearly, if I was Governor, I would apply it to deal with this furlough issue.”

Q: How far would the 280 million go to fix the DOE furloughs?

A: “My understanding is every furlough day costs 5 million dollars for teachers and custodians and cafeteria workers, everybody involved with the school. So, 17 furlough days is 85 million. Two years, 42 furlough days is about 200 million.”

Q: What happens after the money is exhausted, looking towards the years ahead?

A: “So really, those two pots of money should be able to take care of the furlough days for two years. So this year and next year and my hope is that we can do enough in the economy to try and deal with it.”

Q: Are there any other Federal funds that may be available for the state?

A: “There are additional Federal stimulus monies that I think we should go after and part of that is within the Department of Education. President Obama has a real aggressive program for funds and I think it’s the first time in a long time that there is actually more money in the U.S. Department of Education’s budget that I think we should pursue.”

Q: How can the people, working with our elected officials, turn this situation around?

A: “I think by the community pulling together and maybe putting together a SWAT team to really think about what it is that the President wants to see. How can we organize it and pursue it?” wants to hear from you.

Do you think the Governor should tap into to the 180 million Hurricane Fund and the 100 million stimulus money designated for Hawaii Educational needs?

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