Hawaii State Department of Education employees will have to take six to 10 days of unpaid leave next semester, state Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said Thursday as part of the Gov. David Ige's plan to impose statewide furloughs.

Kishimoto announced details of HIDOE’s furlough plan for its 21,900 full-time, salaried employees in an internal video message late Thursday.

HIDOE 10-month teachers, who make up the majority of classroom educators, would take six furlough days between Jan. 1 and June 30, Kishimoto said. All 12-month full-time HIDOE employees will take 10 furlough days in that same six-month time frame, she said in the two-minute video.

“The department’s plan for next semester is less than the 9.23 percent — or the two days a month — that the Executive Branch is implementing,” she said in the video message.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee said the HSTA, “has not received information from the governor or the Department of Education about their plans to illegally impose furloughs on teachers and other HIDOE employees.

“HSTA has no more information than what was included in the superintendent’s brief video, including specific dates envisioned for the furloughs, or the decrease in pay planned for HIDOE employees,” Rosenlee added. 

“This is the problem when the state imposes unilateral furloughs without negotiating them: the educators’ voices are ignored. Imposing furloughs violates the collective bargaining rights of state employees that are guaranteed in our state constitution,” Rosenlee said.

Please note, HSTA has not agreed to furloughs, and we are willing to take Ige to court to keep them from happening by asserting and protecting our collective bargaining rights.

The Board of Education has numerous questions about the governor's furlough plans, saying his statements this week have left the board with a "lack of clarity," said BOE Chair Catherine Payne. The BOE will discuss its furlough questions at its next meeting on Thursday, Dec. 17.

The HIDOE plan unveiled Thursday applies to all full-time salaried employees, except for federal or special-funded positions, substitutes, classroom aides and other part-time employees, Kishimoto said.

Hawaii schools already were suffering since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year, forcing teachers and students to adjust to online learning and other difficulties. In addition to potential furloughs starting in January, schools face at least $164 million in budget cuts next school year, which could result in more than 1,000 school employees losing their jobs beginning in the fall of 2021.

“Our planned furlough days take into account that we lost nine instructional days at the beginning of the school year,” Kishimoto’s message said. “We wanted to minimize any further loss of instructional days for students.”

No timetable has been set for those dates, HIDOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani told Honolulu Civil Beat, but she said a decision would be made “as soon as possible,” ideally before winter break begins on Dec. 18.

Kalani said she couldn’t elaborate on how the HIDOE would avoid cutting the number of school days as promised until the timetable is set, Civil Beat said.

As part of the governor’s cabinet, Kishimoto will take a nine-percent pay cut to her salary, Kalani told Civil Beat. On Wednesday, the governor said his cabinet would take similar pay cuts to those he wants to impose on state employees.

Ige announced his plan to impose two-day-a-month furloughs for most unionized state workers starting Jan. 1 to cope with a budget shortfall but said the HIDOE and the University of Hawaii would develop their own furlough plans.

The governor is creating confusion and chaos with his badly planned furlough rollout, Hawaii’s four public unions said Thursday.

In regard to public charter schools, the state provided very little information about how it will carry out planned furloughs or cuts, and has only told HSTA the following: “adjustments will be made to the overall charter school weighted average per-pupil amount based on budget adjustments to the Department of Education’s budget,” and “furlough saving reductions will be calculated for each charter school in the same manner that collective bargaining pay raises are calculated. How each charter school decides to comply with the required budget reductions is up to each charter school.”