Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Hawaii’s Furlough Fridays may deny its graduates college admission

by Larry Geller

Update: Today (Monday, 10/26/2009) some questions have been circulating about whether the Western Association of Schools and Colleges does require a minimum of 175 days in a school year, as represented in the complaint filed in federal court by attorney Eric Seitz. It’s too late to call anyone there today, but Googling revealed that indeed, Seitz may possibly be off-base on this one. See, for example, this from the WASC itself: WASC/Hawaii Department of Education. There is no mention of a minimum number of days.

Whether a pre-determined curriculum can be completed with 17 fewer days and whether they take that into consideration, I don’t yet know.

I think credit for discovering this goes to AP reporter Mark Niesse. Mark demonstrates why we still need to have real reporters chasing after the news. Thanks, Mark!

The lawsuit filed this afternoon in federal court by attorney Eric Seitz includes a claim that should concern all parents of Hawaii public school students—as a consequence of terms of the contract agreement hammered out by the Lingle administration with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, high school graduates may be disqualified for admission to colleges or universities.

The Lingle administration may just have flushed Hawaii's high-tech future as well as children’s dreams for a college education down the drain.

The suit (see text in Two lawsuits filed to block Furlough Fridays) mentions that the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Schools requires a minimum of 175 class days in a school year, but that under the furlough arrangement, there will be only 163 instructional school days in Hawaii.

From the text of the lawsuit (page 17):

(c) In addition, ANOLANI COON is in the eleventh grade and intends to apply to postsecondary schools and continue her education at colleges or universities in Hawai' i or California. Kauai High School, the school at which ANOLANI is enrolled, is accredited through 2010 with a visit year scheduled by the WASC Commission in 2010. Because the number of instructional school days falls well below the WASC Commission's requirement that schools have a minimum of 175 class days, the acceptance of ANOLANI's transcripts for admission into a college or university is jeopardized by the DOE's furlough program.

Had parents known of this, they might have placed their children in private schools, for example, to assure that they could get into college.

The situation is set up starting on page 14 of the complaint:

45. Of these 288 State public schools, 111 are subject to accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Schools (hereinafter "WASC Commission"). In 2009, ten schools will be visited by the WASC Commission and twenty schools will have their accreditations expire. In 2010, eighteen schools will be visited by the WASC Commission and twenty-four schools will have their accreditations expire.

46. Currently over 60% of Hawai' i's public schools have not met average yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and Hawaii.

47. According to the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores, Hawaii's education is ranked 47th in the nation in eighth grade reading and math scores.

48. These individual Plaintiffs, the class, and subclasses they represent are all children and parents who relied on the DOE's representation of the length and character of the school year in deciding where to enroll their children, foregoing the opportunity to enroll their children in alternative schools such as charter schools within the public educational system or at private schools.

49. On or about September 19, 2009, the Hawaii State Board of Education and Governor Lingle approved a retroactive contract with the Hawaii State Teachers' Association resulting in 17 furlough days to be taken from the instructional time of the 2009-2010 school year.

50. This contract was retroactive to July 1, 2009, and left intact teachers' nine paid holidays and six teacher planning days.

51. This contract was ostensibly reached due to Governor Lingle's attempts to balance the state budget and her withholding of 14% of the Department of Education's budget amounting to $227 million.

52. The contract was ratified by the Hawaii State Teachers' Association, and the altered school calendar was released by the Hawai`i State Board of Education identifying Friday, October 23, 2009 as the first of 17 "Furlough Fridays."

53. The remaining 16 furlough days fall on the following Fridays in the 2009-2010 school year: October 30, November 6, November 20, December 4, December 11, and December 18, 2009, and January 15, January 29, February 5, February 12, March 5, March 12, April 23, April 30, and May 7, and May 14, 2010.

54. Furloughs were deliberately and intentionally not scheduled for holidays or other paid non-work days or for professional development days during which students do not attend class.

55. The effect of this furlough program is that Hawai'i's public school students now have 163 instructional school days and only four remaining weeks with five consecutive days of schooling, Monday through Friday, in the eight of the ten months that comprise the 2009-2010 school year.

56. In comparison to other states, the average school year is 190 days, and Hawaii now has the shortest school calendar in the nation. Other states have imposed furloughs within their elementary and secondary education systems, but these furloughs are not on instructional school days. Most school districts, including California, Florida, and New Mexico, are requiring teachers to take
unpaid days off.

57. No school system in the nation is taking as many furlough days as the State of Hawaii. Furloughs of schools in other states are limited to fewer than five days for the school year.


Are Hawai'is children being prepared for the military instead of college?

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