Friday, October 30, 2009


Furlough cases unfurl

by Larry Geller

Gads, I spend a few hours at the Senate hearing on the DOE furloughs and all kinds of crazy things break loose at the court while I’m not looking.

Before getting into the court stuff, a little about the hearings. There will be plenty in the papers, though the TV cameras disappeared before it was over.

Actually… I plead not much time tonight. I’ll post links below.

First, I was disappointed that this was not a joint hearing. Where was the House?

There was lots of good testimony. John Radcliffe, a former director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, chastised lawmakers saying that as a state we are not only economically challenged but morally bankrupt. Parents and school kids gave lots of impassioned testimony and suggestions.

Here is a letter from the Secretary of Education to Rep. Neil Abercrombie, read by Abercrombie’s chief of staff, Amy Asselbye, towards the end of the hearing.

I testified that the economic crisis was not Hawaii’s making. The budget crunch is due to erosion of the tax base due to job loss, foreclosures, the credit crunch that affects small businesses, the downturn in tourism, etc., that stem from the crimes of Wall Street. Our Congress and President chose to bail out the banksters instead of ordinary people. The states can’t print money the way the feds can, and so are cutting services including education. Washington can bail us out. Since the worldwide focus is on us, why doesn’t the Legislature go public and demand assistance to the states from Washington so that Hawaii’s furloughs would not be necessary? Right now, due to the worldwide attention so far and the fact that Obama is a son of Hawaii, anything they say will make news. Lingle can read about it in the newspapers while she is away on her Chinese junket.

Not a very useful idea, but anyway, that’s what I said.

Speaking of the eyes of the world, check out this scathing editorial from today’s New York Times. Snippet:

Hawaii’s political leaders and school officials are now standing in a circle of blame, pointing at one another. The governor, who had ordered the Department of Education to cut its $1.8 billion budget by 14 percent, now says she had not expected the union to take its furlough days from instruction time. She said she regretted the settlement, even though her attorney general defended it in hearings over two federal lawsuits filed on behalf of parents and children trying to restore the school days.

As other states struggle to bolster education, to add classes and lengthen the school year, Hawaii is going in the wrong direction. What it needs are not apologies but open classrooms for the students whose futures are being mortgaged — especially the poor and disabled children and those in special education who are particularly vulnerable to lost instructional time. For now, they are learning a terrible lesson in how little their government and teachers think an education is worth.

Yes, Hawaii. This is how a banana republic handles its budget crisis (it also lays off its agricultural inspectors, disables its office of elections, shoots itself in the foot by closing its film office, and so forth).

Ok, over to the court.

Judge Ezra has recused himself so he can mediate a settlement.

All potential U.S. District Court judges have now recused themselves from the trial. So, the lawsuits will now be heard by Judge Wallace Tashima, of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. [KITV, 10/30/2009]

Here is the best article so far, from the Star-Bulletin:

Judge Ezra now assigned to mediate Furlough Friday lawsuits

The Tuesday hearing which was rescheduled from the original Thursday hearing is now set for Monday Nov. 9, according to the article. So unless Ezra works something out with the parties or the state comes to its senses on its own, a new judge will rule on the preliminary injunction (see article).

Here is the judge’s order recusing himself. If there are any handwriting experts out there, I would love to hear your analysis of Ezra’s signature.

From new documents filed with the court, this is a copy of the Supplemental Agreement between the HSTA and the DOE with regard to Unit 5 furloughs. This one looks like pretty much the same thing but with attachments.

That’s all for tonight on this.


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