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HSTA holds live briefing, Q&A session on furlough threat

Posted: Dec 28, 2020
Categories: News
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What we know so far and what we continue to seek answers on

Click here to watch this video on YouTube with interactive time stamps.

While the semester has come to an end and our members are taking a well-deserved break, the work of the Hawaii State Teachers Association continues.

On Dec. 28, HSTA held a live briefing to inform members on furlough threats, our response, and other COVID-19-related updates and actions. Several developments have occurred relating to the governor’s threat of furloughing state employees. We are providing this opportunity to try to clarify what we know, share what we are still seeking answers to, and gather any additional questions members may have about the furlough threat.

Make sure you are subscribed to our Member Matters email newsletter and continue to check our website for the latest updates. If you have individual concerns and questions, submit your message here and it will be routed to the appropriate person for follow-up.

As a refresher, here is a brief overview of the last several weeks.

Wednesday, Dec. 9: The governor announced he would implement furloughs for state workers starting Jan. 1. The governor also stated that the Hawaii State Department of Education would have a different schedule determined by the superintendent. The superintendent responded with two emails indicating that the furlough plan would come out soon.

Monday, Dec. 14: The superintendent put out a schedule of the furloughs, which were scheduled for Jan. 4 and Feb. 12 with future furloughs listed as “projected.”

Friday, Dec. 18: The HSTA filed a prohibited practice complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB). In short, we challenged the governor and superintendent’s unilateral imposition of furloughs starting Jan. 4.

Wednesday, Dec. 23: The governor and superintendent announced, as a result of federal stimulus, that the January furlough day was “no longer being implemented,” and the Feb. 12 day and others were dependent on federal relief.

Sunday, Dec. 27: President Trump signed the stimulus bill, paving the way for approximately $178 million for Hawaii’s schools.

However, it should be noted that the governor’s message to employees also stated that “it’s impossible to provide a date that the furloughs will begin.”

HSTA has not withdrawn our HLRB complaint. We are currently waiting for meetings with the employer, representatives of both the superintendent and the governor, to get more information regarding their recent announcement delaying furloughs. Once we have more information, we will make further decisions about pending legal action and update members.

In the meantime, we are sure that members still have questions regarding the future threat of furloughs. Many of them, we do not have answers to, like:

  • Even if there are fewer furlough days, will members still see 9-percent pay cuts?
  • Will pay cuts, if any, be spread out among paychecks during the second semester?
  • Why are 12-month teachers expected to take much larger cuts in proportion to 10-month teachers?
  • Should we anticipate higher cuts next school year if we see smaller cuts for the rest of this school year?

State budget crisis, federal stimulus, upcoming legislative session

First, the good news: Congress passed the $900 billion stimulus bill. It includes $178 million for Hawaii’s K-12 schools, and that money can be used for salaries. HSTA estimates the cost to avoid furloughs for the next six months for all HIDOE employees would be $42.5 million, so the governor does have the ability now to avoid furloughs for this school year.

The budget for next school year is much more difficult. Right now, the HIDOE is facing nearly a $400 million cut for the next fiscal year. This could mean cutting more than 1,000 teaching positions. As a union, we need to take action to make sure these cuts do not happen. The best thing that can happen is that Congress and President-Elect Joe Biden pass a new stimulus bill that includes help for states and additional funding for education. We also need help from our state legislators to find additional revenue.

It is important that you reach out to your local legislator to share how budget cuts and furloughs will impact you, your school, and your students.

Potential impacts to SY2021–22, teacher transfer and assignment, new contract

We have begun to bargain our next contract and exchanged initial proposals in early December.

We anticipate that the bargain will be very challenging given the state’s fiscal outlook. Public schools are facing drastic cuts next school year. In the 2021–22 school year, operating expenses outside of furloughs will be cut by approximately $265 million. The governor is also expecting the HIDOE to find an additional $128.5 million in salary savings through furloughs or other salary cuts next school year.

All of the cuts are affecting the planning of academic and financial plans for school year 2021–22. The superintendent and charter schools were told to plan for 10-, 15-, and 20-percent cuts. If your principal has not yet had discussions with staff, they should do so in the next month.

The governor’s recently released budget plan also calls for a $14.4 million cut to per pupil allocations for charter schools next school year. We understand these cuts to be a proportional amount to the HIDOE’s $265 million in operating cuts. It is unclear if additional cuts will be expected related to furlough salary savings.

This means that next school year, teachers who are emergency hires, probationary, and in specialized positions, such as resource teachers, are the ones most at risk to be impacted by staff reductions and/or possible non-renewal of contracts for non-tenured teachers.

In the coming weeks, we plan to put out more information related to teacher transfer and staff reduction, which includes a members-only webinar. Please make sure you are subscribed to our Member Matters email newsletter for the latest updates.

What we know about spring 2021

First, we are asking that the HIDOE require all principals to reach out by phone and mail to notify employees that they will not be furloughed on Jan. 4, and that they need to report to work. This is to ensure all teachers get the message. Please let your colleagues know as well.

If you made some sort of travel arrangements or other personal business on Jan. 4 which you can’t change, you should request personal leave so that you are not considered AWOL on the teacher workday.

While charter schools received approximately $6 million in budget cuts at the beginning of this school year, they were not part of the HIDOE announced furlough plan. If your school has announced any cuts or furloughs for spring semester, please let us know as we will likely have to address your school’s situation separately.

Secondly, we are also trying to confirm if the state has “undone” any of the payroll systems programing for the January furlough on the payroll system. We are concerned that even with the governor’s announcement of pulling back on the imposed furloughs, that DAGS already programed the furlough to be calculated in the Jan. 20 paycheck prior to the holidays.

Lastly, things are still very unclear right now. The governor could change his mind later and attempt to impose furloughs again this spring. This is a violation of our collective bargaining agreement, and we would challenge any attempt to impose furloughs.

Q&A

14:09 Will HSTA leaders take furloughs and pay cuts too?
15:28 If the furloughs go through, why does the governor and media keep saying that the 9.23% pay cut equate to two days per month, but the DOE's schedule only shows six days in six months?
16:39 Can you give us more information on possible cuts for 12-month teachers? Why do they have more proposed furlough days?
17:27 If our position is eliminated, are teachers going to be forced into transferring to another school or do we qualify for unemployment benefits?
19:17 The governor said HGEA federally funded clerks will not be furloughed because they’re 100% federally funded. But what about federally funded teachers? Will they still be furloughed?
20:00 Feb. 12 is a Teacher Institute Day. If that ends up being a furlough day, will Institute Day be rescheduled or canceled?
21:11 Itʻs not a question, but an opinion. Because of the major budget cuts and furloughs, I think HSTA should demand a restructuring of the DOE. It is way too top heavy and plenty of those pencil-pushing positions should be eliminated or they should be taking the furloughs, not the teachers. How would HSTA be able to support that view?
22:51 My principal said my line was cut because the budget was due on Dec. 15. Is this still holding true?
23:53 What about teachers at the district level? If their positions are eliminated, what happens to them?
24:35 With this economic crisis, shouldn't teachers take pay cuts like everyone else?
25:55 If we have to furlough into 21–22 school year, can we please just extend summer break to make it consistent for families and to save on utilities, including air conditioning costs?
27:01 Is it possible for our next contract to reduce rights that currently exist in our current contract?
27:39 Do you think the DOE will offer a retirement deal to teachers who are close to retiring?
28:44 What will happen to the shortage differentials, e.g., SPED and hard to staff?
29:41 If a probationary teacher is let go due to lack of teaching positions, will their probationary status freeze?
31:07 What about charter school teachers who do not officially have tenure? Are we considered tenured if we have three years of service at our charter school?
32:10 Since we're in a pandemic, if you are hired for a certain position and return expecting to work in that position, can you be reassigned without your knowledge?
32:48 Are we continuing to fight for compression pay? There are a lot of teachers who have taught for 20+ years and have been waiting for a raise for a long time.
33:47 Education is always the first thing to be cut. Where are our priorities as a state?
34:49 Do employers, especially administrators, have the legal right to know if you have a health condition as the deciding factor for you to be allowed to telework?

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