Aloha to three weeks of class as Hawaii copes with recession


To cope with budget cuts, Hawaii is cutting 17 days from the school year. Students will not attend classes on Friday for most of the rest of the school year, according to the Associated Press.

This appears to be the most drastic response to the severe budget crisis facing schools nationwide, and certainly makes Georgia’s furlough days seem slight in comparison.

At a time when President Barack Obama is pushing for more time in the classroom, his home state has created the nation’s shortest school year under a new union contract that closes schools on most Fridays for the remainder of the academic calendar.

The deal whacks 17 days from the school year for budget-cutting reasons and has education advocates incensed that Hawaii is drastically cutting the academic calendar at a time when it already ranks near the bottom in national educational achievement.

While many school districts have laid off or furloughed teachers, reduced pay and planning days and otherwise cut costs, Hawaii’s 171,000 public schools students now find themselves with only 163 instructional days, compared with 180 in most districts in the U.S.

“The 16-year-old in me is pretty excited that I’ll be able to chill on those days,” said Mark Aoki, a junior at Roosevelt High in Honolulu. “But overall within me, what I truly believe is that we’ll regret this.”

The cuts come as Obama, who graduated from a top private high school in Hawaii, says U.S. students are at a disadvantage with other students around the world because they spend too little time in school.

He wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go. He declared recently that “the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.”

The new contract, approved by 81 percent of voting teachers, stipulates 17 furlough Fridays during which schools will be closed, with the first happening Oct. 23. The teachers accepted a concurrent pay reduction of about 8 percent, but teacher vacation, nine paid holidays and six teacher planning days are left untouched.

Hawaii Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto acknowledges that learning time will be lost and students will suffer, but she says schools will try to increase their efforts during the remaining school days to cram in as much teaching as they can.

Is the Hawaiian superintendent dreaming? Can teachers possibly cram in enough to compensate for more than three weeks of missed classes?

This seems like the wrong approach for a state that lags behind the rest of the country on many academic measures.

Or do these drastic times call for drastic measures?

37 comments Add your comment


October 20th, 2009
5:23 am

It bothers me that most major school systems don’t put out a call for suggestions, a system to hear the ideas of the greater population.

The school system is about a year or two behind the general economy, as the funding is a result of the property taxes. More foreclosures this year mean less money next, and next year won’t be good.

The most drastic measures should be paradigm shifts by our leadership. For example, why not have kids go “virtual” one day per week, like Wednesdays. Save the gas of busing, lights in the school, etc. Kids get an online experience, but they’re concerned teachers don’t have the skills. Get them! Why do we still have trailers, but teachers don’t share classrooms? Time to share, not be spoiled.

The highest levels of our leadership are afraid to listen, afraid to try something new. It IS time for something drastic, and it starts at the top. Board of Ed elections, anyone?


October 20th, 2009
6:15 am

Wonder what happened to the stimulus money that is supposed to be saving teachers and improving education?

Been there a while

October 20th, 2009
7:36 am

Perturbed, have you ever seen 30 fifth graders crammed into one classroom? Can’t imagine doubling up! The virtual classroom is a great idea…how do you envision that? Would each teacher “broadcast” to her own group of students or would there be one generic lesson for all age kids? Also, how do we handle the students who don’t have a computer or don’t have internet access?


October 20th, 2009
7:43 am

In Response to perturbed:
The most drastic measures should be paradigm shifts by our leadership. For example, why not have kids go “virtual” one day per week, like Wednesdays. Save the gas of busing, lights in the school, etc. Kids get an online experience, but they’re concerned teachers don’t have the skills. Get them! Why do we still have trailers, but teachers don’t share classrooms? Time to share, not be spoiled

In the school system where my children attend, probably 40% do not have Internet access at home, so how can they get to the virtual classes? Most of my children’s teachers would use and create virtual classrooms, but why do it when you are only going to be able to reach the 40% that don’t have Internet Access while they are at school? If you then say on Wednesday’s we will do virtual classes and and not have the school open, how will those students get the class time in?

On the trailer issue, don’t they bring in trailers when the buildings aren’t big enough for the number of students attending? If so, that doesn’t sound like an issue of teachers being spoiled, but an issue of the building not being big enough.

I do agree that some different thinking is needed, but it needs to be carefully thought out and reasoned, not just ideas thrown out to see if it works.


October 20th, 2009
7:46 am

Macro-economists tell us with confidence that when the educational level of a country declines, the standard of living declines. With US HS graduation rates already approaching 50% nationally, I would say the Hawaiians have their priorities out of order.


October 20th, 2009
7:53 am

That is exactly what we need in a country already lagging behind in education – less school. What a sad country that pays its CEOs ungodly salaries and bonuses but can’t put two nickles together to educated the kids. Its time for the government to get off its backside and pass some laws requiring companies to pay their full share of taxes.


October 20th, 2009
8:00 am

In 2006 (latest year for which data is available), according to the US Treasury Department web site, corporations paid about 14% of the federal government’s total tax revenues. Individuals opaid almost 50%. In a nation where the wealth is mostly concentrated among corporations and a tiny percentage of individuals, I’d agree with GregS that corporations are not paying their fair share. America – a great place for profit, not so great for people.


October 20th, 2009
8:16 am

Tea, Corporations pay no taxes what so ever. All taxes are paid by individuals. Corporations are owned by individuals in the form of stocks. If corporations pay taxes then it is the stockholders who are in essence paying taxes. Since all stock are held by individuals, either as stockholders or as default owners by 401 ks, 403 bs or any other form of investment, to say that corporations are not paying a fair share is a ridiculous argument since they pay nothing to begin with. They merely collect and distribute taxes


October 20th, 2009
8:19 am

What America needs is another tax cut, so more schools will reduce education.

Come on people! It’s time we left the knee jerk response that cutting taxes is painless. The Republicans have destroyed our economy by increasing spending and cutting taxes.

There is a cost to living in a modern world. That cost is higher taxes to go along with higher incomes. Otherwise we cut vital services, such as schools and police and health.

But selfish tea-baggers just want to cut taxes, and want to cut services, and want to cut the investment in our children and our future for short term immediate gains.

Well, now we’ll have to steep in the hot water until we break their hold on our economy and our government.


October 20th, 2009
8:31 am

Lea, Corporations pay no taxes, Only individuals pay taxes. Corporations are owned by individuals either directly by stocks or indirectly through investment funds or retirement funds. Any “taxes” paid by corporations are earnings not realized by individuals. Corporations DO NOT pay taxes, so any talk of them not paying their fair share is bogus.


October 20th, 2009
8:37 am

What will happen to families of the children who are not in school those 17 extra days? Will working parents have to pay for extra day care? More latchkey children is inviting trouble. Virtual education sounds good until you remember that many families have no parent at home during the day.


October 20th, 2009
8:46 am

Fred. You are mis-informed. A business entity is subject to federal income tax if it is a corporation which is not an S corporation, and it is formed in the United States or it conducts a trade or business in the United States. In 2006 The US treasury collected $381 billion dollars in taxes from such corporations, or about 14% of the roughly 2.5 trillion tax dollars the federal government collected.

I wonder?

October 20th, 2009
8:46 am

I wonder who makes up corporations?? I wonder how much of those taxes which are paid by individuals is derived from salary or profits from corporations? I wonder how much of the individual tax paid comes from capital gains tax from the result of selling shares? I wonder why if America is not so great for people why people are willing to die to come here? I wonder why people expect the government to take care of them? I wonder . . .


October 20th, 2009
9:03 am

Corporations do pay taxes because corporations are a separate entity from the individuals that are shareholders and employees. Taxes are levied against revenues, and are calculated as burdened costs in order to determine profit.

The shareholders receives dividends on the profits of a company, not the revenues. So this whole “Individuals pay taxes and not corporations” argument is moot… anyone who took a basic business class in high school can refute that claim.


October 20th, 2009
9:15 am


Absolutely correct in your analysis the corporation sends the check to the government so they pay the tax. At the end of the day any expense to the corporation is a reduction to net income and net income is distributed to the shareholders or reinvested to increase shareholder value. So while the corporation may cut the check to the government the funds still come from the shareholders (who at some point are individuals).


October 20th, 2009
9:46 am

Why not focus on the basics the days that students are in school, and leave the rest to parents? It seems schools are expected to teach anything and everything these days, including things that parents used to be responsible for.

Or for older grades, go to a college like method. Give the students the work that is expected, so over it with them and then they are responsible for finishing it at home on fridays.


October 20th, 2009
11:30 am


You are correct, as well. But taxes is only one item calculated as burden. So as a shareholder, you also must look at salaries, healthcare, technology, electricity, cost of goods, etc. when you look at a balance sheet.

But here’s the point of departure: taxes that are a cost of goods and services doesn’t come from shareholders. Cost of goods and services comes from the corporate entity and those funds are from the corporate entity.

Only profits go to shareholders. The job of corporate management is to find ways to reduce costs in order to increase profits. But legally, the funds for taxes doesn’t come from shareholders. Legally. (But I understand what you are saying, though.)


October 20th, 2009
12:06 pm

Will Colleges and Universities make allowances for this when they look at these students’ SAT/ACT/GPA?

Or will we, yet again, allow incompetent legislators a chance two shelter themselves with the teacher scapegoat?

Like up in Cherokee County where their elected representation (Chip Rogers, etc) has stripped 20% of the state funding for schools from his district, but the citizens blame Dr. P for cutting parapros.


October 20th, 2009
12:31 pm

As a tax accountant working for a large corporation, I can assure you that corporations do, in fact, pay taxes. Corporations pay utilities expense, salary expense, rent expense, landscaping expense… and yes, Virginia, they do pay taxes.

Any suggestion to contrary is just meaningless ideological spin.


October 20th, 2009
12:46 pm

I was wondering who would be the first to whine about who was going to look after their kids on Fridays. lol

DeKalb Conservative

October 20th, 2009
2:06 pm

I think it is amazing how education is always one of the first things to get cut during down times.

Here are a few great $ saving ideas municipal vultures could consider:
- turn off the lights at night in municipal buildins
- reduce trash pickup in offices (including desk-by-desk waste paper basket pick ups)
- reduce fuel budgets for non first responder vehicles
- keep municipal offices open longer daily, but only run a 4 day / week offering (allows no jobs to be cut)

mystery poster

October 20th, 2009
2:35 pm

Although going virtual would save on busing, electricity, and the basic infrastructure costs, the teacher in charge of monitoring those students during that time would need to be paid.


October 20th, 2009
4:40 pm

If you are going to cut 17 days, why cut every Friday? Why not just cut three weeks of the end of the year? Then you don’t miss any days before NCLB testing, and everyone knows that school is a complete waste of time after testing.

Second, for those who work while their kids are in school, it is very hard to find childcare one day per week but relatively easier to find it for a series of full weeks in the summer.


October 20th, 2009
8:09 pm

Yes, corporations pay taxes. Lot’s of ‘em.

Those who say that corporations do not pay taxes, but only pass them along to the customer and shareholder are also correct – in theory. You see, taxes are an expense to the corporation, just like the power bill and salaries of employees. You increase the tax burden, the corporation will either (a) absorb the increase by accepting lower profits and pass this along to the INDIVIDUAL shareholder in the form of lower dividends / stock prices, (b) pass the additional taxes to the INDIVIDUAL customer in the form of higher prices for goods, or (c) try to absorb the additional tax by lowering their costs thereby passing the tax along to other companies by reduced payments.

Bottom line, at some point, everything rolls down to the INDIVIDUAL level. It all depends on how many hands it passes through to get there.


October 21st, 2009
5:36 am

To clarify for those who asked:

I don’t believe elementary rooms could “share”, it’s more of a high school and possibly middle school issue. I would never cram two groups of 30 5th graders in one room, it would be crazy. However, in most high schools, teachers keep their room empty for planning or lunch. THAT’S kind of crazy in this economy, when a trailer costs about $8000 per year.

As for “virtual”, that kind of learning is “asynchronous”, meaning it’s not all simultaneous. Yes, the teacher would still be paid. However, some kids do learn quite well on their own, and need support for only certain items. Yes, some kids don’t have a computer or internet access at home. For them you could keep one or two labs open at school, and teachers could take turns working from there. Kids can also get access at the local libraries. If the timeframe is flexible, it can happen.

As for folks who need to work, as is the case with me and my wife, this is where we need to establish better relationships with neighbors, friends, etc., and come together more. How many folks these days don’t even know their neighbor? Too many!

Finally, the push for online is another form of learning. It’s estimated that 50% of high school classes may be online within 10 years, and post-secondary learning even more. Learning how to learn using these tools is an essential lesson in itself, and I might argue that not having the virtual learning experience is going to hurt our kids.

If teachers aren’t comfortable with using online technologies, then I go back to the point that we are very much like the auto unions of Michigan.
Not trying to create argument, trying to co-develop answers.


October 21st, 2009
7:32 am


The stimulus package was never meant to stimulate. It’s an election year slush fund for all the congresscritters and the Kenyan man-child.


October 21st, 2009
7:35 am

Hey leeh1,

Why don’t you be a leader and cut a personal check to the Hawaiian school district and keep your hands out of my wallet? School budgets, funding and curriculum should be a local issue.


October 21st, 2009
8:47 am

Don’t be surprised if something like this happens in Georgia. We will probably have more furlough days and then have the kids school year cut down. Money is tight for everyone.


October 21st, 2009
9:00 am

Same nonsense municipalities spew when cutting police and fire, in the name of the budget. There are scores of departments that should be cut first but the problem is the pols goal is to generate more taxes, people are willing to pay for schools and cops and fire depts. Which is why they are on the chopping block if they start talking about social programs and business grants to their buds the public would say good riddance.


October 21st, 2009
9:04 am

Wonder if Manny with the HS business degree, was able to do some junior college research last night and come to the obvious and elementary conclusion that corporations don’t pay taxes. Simply a way for pols to convince the uneducated they are getting something for nothing.


October 21st, 2009
10:49 am

Tread, read your Georgia state constitution – in our state, funding is a state issue.


October 21st, 2009
11:59 am


So the State of Georgia accepts no federal money for state education?

I’m pretty sure that’s not the case.

And I’m pretty sure that those federal funds come with all kinds of strings attached. Further, I’m pretty sure most folks here in GA would rather see their income and/or taxes used here in GA, not bailing out a failed educational system in HI.


October 21st, 2009
12:04 pm


So, the State of Georgia accepts no federal funding for education?

I don’t think so.

I’m pretty sure those federal dollars taht are used come with all kinds of strings attached. Right?

I’m also pretty sure that folks here in GA would rather their income and taxes be used here in GA and not in a failed system like HI.

jim d

October 21st, 2009
5:10 pm

Have any of you visited public schools in Hawaii ?

My visit there was an eye opener. Most of them I saw were small, old, run down buildings that were overcrowded and looked like they were built in the early 50’s.

Some of the reading I’ve done also indicates this school system has been struggling financially for a very long time.


October 21st, 2009
7:29 pm

DontTreadOnMe, I obviously need some sort of sarcasm symbol.


October 22nd, 2009
7:13 am


Sorry. It’s hard to tell these days…

David S

October 23rd, 2009
11:23 pm

Obama’s home state is Kenya, not Hawaii.

The less time kids spend in schools run by the government the better off they will be.

More time at home where their parents can actually give them a good education.