Students in Hawaii who have dreamt of longer weekends and shorter school weeks just got their wishes granted. As a way to trim the state’s ballooning education budget, a new teachers’ union contract chops 17 Fridays off the remaining academic calendar for the state’s 171,000 public school students, the Associated Press reports. The President’s home state will now have just 163 instructional days, while most states have 180.
The decision in favor of money saved, teacher layoffs prevented, and learning time lost comes as Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are calling for students across the country to spend more time in the classroom. The President said recently that he wants students to stay late or come in on weekends because “the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.” Meanwhile, Hawaii already ranks near the bottom of the national education achievement barrell in terms of its test scores.
More than 80 percent of Hawaii’s voting teachers approved the new contract and its 17 furlough Fridays, but the decision has many parents and education advocates up in arms. Some working parents are scrambling to find day care, while parents of special-needs students are threatening to sue the state. “It’s just not enough time for kids to learn,” Valerie Sonoda, president of the Hawaii State Parent Teacher Student Association told the Associated Press. “I’m getting hundreds of calls and e-mails. They all have the same underlying concern, and that is the educational hours of the kids.”
Hawaii is not alone in its teaching budget cuts. California, Florida, and New Mexico have also asked teachers to take unpaid furlough days, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But few if any furlough days in other states fall on dates that would otherwise have been used for classroom instruction.