LIHU‘E — The Department of Education (DOE) and the University of Hawai‘i (UH) are on the list of state agencies that will be implementing furloughs effective January 1, 2021.
“We have been working with the DOE and the University of Hawai’i,” Gov. David Ige said at a Wednesday press conference. “We’ve given them a personal savings target that they are working toward. And because the academic school year is different than the work year, the furloughs as implemented would be different for both the public schools as well as UH.”
Ige said the school calendar has been dramatically impacted by COVID-19.
“So, their furlough reduction will be less than the rest of the state government because we are aware of the impact on instructional days and we want to make sure that the students can get enough instructional time to be promoted to the next grade level,” Ige said.
DOE and UH will be announcing furlough details at a later time.
Hawai‘i has been hit hard by the pandemic. The state is projected to face a $1.4 billion shortfall each year for the next four years.
UH President David Lassner said the furloughs are not “sufficient to address all of the financial challenges facing the state and the university.
“The work to address the full impacts of the budget crisis is continuing through active engagement across our campuses,” Lassner said. “This is a painful message to share, especially given your amazing dedication and hard work through these difficult times while many of you are also strained and stressed by what COVID-19 is doing to you and your ohana.”
Both UH and DOE said they will speak to their employees first before they make a public announcement on their furlough specifics.
UH’s Spokesman and Director Daniel Meisenzahl said the details are still being finalized with the unions.
“It will be announced to UH employees first before anything is discussed with the media,” Meisenzahl said. “No timetable yet on when that announcement will be made.”
In an email sent to all HIDOE employees, Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto said her team is “anxious to get these details to you as soon as possible.”
“The Governor’s Office of Collective Bargaining is the lead on these active negotiations; therefore, we do not have details of the specific impact to HIDOE employees at this time,” Kishimoto said. “We know these are challenging and uncertain times, and our employees need to understand the impact these labor cuts will have.”
She continued: “We will share updates as details become available. Thank you for your continued commitment to our public schools.”
In a joint statement among the four unions affected, the Hawai‘i Government Employees Association, the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association, the University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly, and the United Public Workers expressed opposition.
“Under Ige’s plan, thousands of public workers would be affected, including teachers, educational assistants, custodians, groundskeepers, cafeteria workers, social workers, university professors, engineers, building inspectors, those who care for our most vulnerable populations, and hundreds of other positions,” the statement read.
“And it’s not just about workers’ pay and how their spending impacts our local economy; lost work hours during a prolonged furlough will negatively impact all public services provided by the government.”