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Wednesday, January 20, 2021
HSTA Tells School Board that Donald Trump Ordered Hawaii to Raise Taxes to Fund Vacant DoE Positions
By News Release @ 4:02 AM :: 1465 Views :: Education K-12, Hawaii State Government, Labor, COVID-19

(Editor’s Note: As a service to our readers we are providing a line-by-line debunk of HSTA's argument in parenthesis below.  This took us about 15 minutes to write.  That's how easy it is to knock their arguments down.  Scroll down about 2/3 to see where Donald Trump orders Ige to raise taxes to fund HSTA vacant positions.  Highlighted in yellow.)

Stimulus bills prohibit state from reducing public education budgets

Governor, superintendent’s proposed budget cuts conflict with federal law 

News Release from HSTA, Jan 19, 2021

Congress prohibited budget cuts to public education in Hawaii in its multi-billion-dollar pandemic stimulus bills, making illegal the governor and school superintendent’s plans to slash millions from public school budgets next year and lay off more than 1,000 school employees, the Hawaii State Teachers Associated revealed at a news conference Tuesday.

“In essence, federal law says Hawaii needs to fund education, retain its teachers and other DOE employees, and pay them at least at their current salary rate,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee told reporters.

Congress included key language in its coronavirus stimulus bills that requires the state to fund education at the same proportional rate as the state had in the three previous fiscal years before COVID-19 hit.

(Editor’s Note: Proportional to the rest of the budget.  All this means is that DoE cuts should be in line with other state budget cuts.)

 Another portion of the bill, Section 315, further says that local education agencies also “shall, to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus.”

(Editor’s Note: Key words are ‘local education agencies’.  Hawai’i is the only state with a single statewide school district.  The other key words: ‘to the greatest extent practicable.’)

“The state is not living up to these stimulus provisions. Next school year, the Hawaii Department of Education will take the largest financial hit of any state department, with nearly a $400 million dollar loss. The current projection could lead to more than 1,000 teachers and possibly 1,800 school employees in total losing their jobs,” Rosenlee said.

(Clue #1: Dollar amount is not the same as percentage.  Clue #2: Most of those HSTA positions are vacant—and have been for decades.)

Attorney Colleen Hanabusa, a former Hawaii congresswoman, and former state Senate president, analyzed the congressional spending bills for HSTA and also addressed reporters at Tuesday’s news conference.

(Clue: www.TheRealHanabusa.com)

Hanabusa said members of Congress wanted “to ensure that the next generation of leaders, the keiki, the students do not fall behind. And that is why there is this requirement that in order to get the stimulus funds or CAREs Act funds, the government of Hawaii, the governor, and the superintendent had to concur in their certificate of agreement, that they are very well aware of these two provisions and their commitment to uphold them.”

(Clue: “Most parents and kids report approximately one hour a day of actual instruction from a teacher”--and that's online)

The HSTA is highlighting this issue now so that Gov. David Ige can make the needed changes to his budget and the Board of Education and Hawaii Department of Education will modify their use of stimulus funding to abide by the stimulus bill’s provisions.

On Thursday, the Board of Education will vote on the Department of Education’s request detailing how it plans to use $183 million in stimulus funding for schools. 

“HSTA does not support the DOE’s proposed use of $63 million of that total --  ⅓ of all stimulus funding -- for private tutors and summer school, while at the same time firing teachers and other school staff.  Hiring private tutors (to do the teaching our members have refused to do) is a luxury we cannot afford right now, especially as the state contemplates firing more than 1,000 (non-existent) educators. HSTA will ask that the BOE modify the DOE request to follow federal law and to make sure next year our keiki have teachers and other staff so important to their well being,” Rosenlee said.

Governors and education departments in other states, such as Wisconsin and Connecticut, have prohibited school districts from reducing salaries or laying off school staff if they accepted federal stimulus money for public schools.

(But Hawaii has only the one statewide district—thanks to HSTA.  Now they want to have their cake and eat it too.)

  *   *   *   *   *

Testimony: Federal stimulus law prohibits cuts to public education

Read HSTA President Corey Rosenlee’s testimony to the Hawaii State Board of Education

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee is submitting the following testimony to the Hawaii State Board of Education.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association strongly urges the Hawaii State Board of Education to delay approving the Hawaii State Department of Education’s stimulus funds plan. If passed, the HIDOE plan will violate recently passed federal law, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133), hurt relations with the state Legislature, and cause long-term, lasting damage to Hawaii’s keiki and their teachers.

(IQ Test: Do you believe this?)

The HIDOE’s budget, under the governor’s proposed budget to the Legislature, is $264 million less from the FY20 base. The HIDOE’s stimulus funding proposal only uses $54 million out of the $183.5 million stimulus funding to mitigate the devastating impact these cuts will have on our schools. The academic and financial plans submitted by principals for next school year will lead to 1,300 school employees losing their jobs, including nearly 800 teachers. The submitted academic and financial plans only show a partial picture of the HIDOE’s plan, because not restoring cuts to the base budget will require an additional $50 million in cuts to continue next year, which could lead to more than 1,700 positions being lost, including more than 1,000 teachers.

(Clue: Most of those positions have been vacant for decades.) 

Furthermore, the governor’s proposed HIDOE budget and the HIDOE’s proposed use of the stimulus funds violate H.R. 133, the most recent federal stimulus law.

(Clue: Not!)

H.R. 133 states:

MAINTENANCE OF EFFORT

SEC. 317. (a) At the time of award of funds to carry out sections 312 or 313 of this title, a State shall provide assurances that such State will maintain support for elementary and secondary education, and for higher education (which shall include State funding to institutions of higher education and state needs-based financial aid, and shall not include support for capital projects or for research and development or tuition and fees paid by students) in fiscal year 2022 at least at the proportional levels of such State’s support for elementary and secondary education and for higher education relative to such State’s overall spending, averaged over fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019.

(Clue: ‘Proportional’)

Among all departments in the state, the governor’s proposed cuts are the highest for the HIDOE. The FY22 budget is more than a 2% decrease from the average of FY17, FY18, and FY19 budgets. This 2% decrease next fiscal year is, by HSTA’s preliminary estimate, a reduction of nearly $170 million from its base budget. The governor’s current proposal violates the stimulus bill by supplanting the funding designated for education to balance the state’s budget, which Congress designed Section 317 to avoid.

(Clue: Not!)  

Furthermore, H.R. 133 also states:

CONTINUED PAYMENT TO EMPLOYEES

SEC. 315. A local educational agency, State, institution of higher education, or other entity that receives funds provided under the heading ‘‘Education Stabilization Fund’’, shall, to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus.

(Clue: ‘To the greatest extent practicable.’)

The HIDOE’s proposed budget for stimulus funds calls for $63 million to fund private tutors and summer school while asking principals to fire even more employees. (Clue: Vacant positions.) This violates (Clue: Not!) Section 315 of H.R. 133. A clear reading of the bill shows that the HIDOE is not meeting the standard of trying “to the greatest extent practicable” to pay its employees and contractors during this period of disruption.  (Clue: Obviously a political argument, not a legal argument.) To clarify whether the intent of the bill protects current school positions, we can look at an executive order issued by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont

(Clue: This CT State Exec Order does not bind Hawaii.  Duh!) 

Stephen Sedor, an education and labor law attorney with the firm Pullman & Comley, explains in the online article, Executive Order 7R: Its Impact and Obligations on Connecticut School Districts:

(Clue: This is just an opinion by a union lawyer about an executive order given by another governor in another state.)

Just as the CARES Act requires school districts to continue to employ individuals to the “reasonable extent practicable,” so does Executive Order 7R. In fact, the Order goes so far as to say that school districts should restore the employment of those who have already been laid off. The specific language states, in relevant part, that school districts:

“[s]hall continue to employ or restore to employment if already laid off, and pay school staff who are directly employed by the local or regional board of education, including but not limited to teachers, paraprofessionals and other support staff, cafeteria staff, clerical staff and custodial workers, to the greatest extent practicable.”

The intent behind the Order is clear; school districts should seek to maintain their employees as best they can.

(Clue: This CT State Exec Order does not bind Hawaii.  Duh!) 

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction also has given similar directions to its local educational agencies (LEAs), stating the following when it comes to the maintenance of pay:

(Clue: This WI State Exec Order does not bind Hawaii.  Duh!) 

As part of the application process for CARES Act grants, the local educational agency’s (LEA’s) Authorizer, will need to attest to one of the following:

The LEA has been paying, and will continue to pay, employees and contractors in the same manner as before any disruptions or closures related to the coronavirus.

The LEA has discontinued payments to any employee or contractor during disruptions or closures related to the coronavirus, but will resume these payments upon receipt of CARES Act funds.

The LEA will continue to pay employees and contractors to the greatest extent practicable. The LEA will be required to provide a reasonable explanation as to why the LEA is unable to pay its employees and contractors in the same manner as before any disruptions or closures related to the coronavirus, and how payments to employees and contractors will be made to the greatest extent practicable.

These provisions suggest that the state of Hawaii can neither reduce education positions nor furlough employees.  There is no doubt the federal legislation requires the use of stimulus funds, additional funding from the governor, and potential revenue increases from the Legislature to avoid school cuts and furloughs.

(Clue: HSTA just told you that Donald J Trump has ordered Hawaii to raise taxes.  LOLROTF!!)

The Legislature’s burden of finding additional revenue was evident at a joint Senate hearing with the committees on Ways and Means and Education last week. Senators were visibly upset and repeatedly asked about the amount of funding needed to balance the HIDOE budget to avoid job losses. State Sen. Michelle Kidani stated, “We’re taking away from students and schools that need this funding now.”

(Clue: Obviously a political argument, not a legal argument.)

Suppose the BOE approves this request for additional spending to use 33% of the recent stimulus funds on private tutors and summer school before dealing with the $264 million budget loss. Such a move will create an additional burden for state lawmakers to find more revenue.

(Clue: Obviously a political argument, not a legal argument.)

In HSTA’s opinion, this action will only infuriate lawmakers, putting at risk the Legislature’s approval of the HIDOE’s funding requests and assuring layoffs and furloughs. If the HIDOE applies most of the stimulus funding to the deficit and then requests additional legislative funding, an important message will be sent from the HIDOE and BOE that they are working with the Legislature to mitigate loss.

(Clue: Obviously a political argument, not a legal argument.)

In these stimulus budget requests, the superintendent and the HIDOE clarify that their highest priority is to deal with learning loss created by this pandemic and the need to go to distance learning. HSTA fully agrees that there has been learning loss because of the pandemic, (Clue: HSTA members haven’t done much for a year now.—but they are getting paid.) but we don’t understand how firing teachers and hiring private tutors will improve learning.  (Clue: We don’t need HSTA’s ‘understanding.’) The loss of teacher positions will lead to higher class sizes (Clue: What classes?) and the reduction of many programs. (Clue: What programs?) Special education losses will mean fewer services and potentially lead to federal free appropriate public education (FAPE) violations for students with special needs. 

(Clue: HSTA goldbricks have put the DoE in violation since last March.)

Even if tutors bring short-term help, the HIDOE’s budget request for these services is not long term. Losing qualified teachers and hundreds of other HIDOE positions will harm our public schools in the long term. Hawaii has seen how hard it is to recruit and retain qualified teachers, a challenge made worse by furloughs and stagnant pay during the last recession over a decade ago. The firing of more than 1,000 (non-existent) teachers and other school employees will devastate Hawaii’s education system and have consequences for years or decades to come.

(Clue: All vacant positions.)

Before the BOE approves the HIDOE’s request, these important questions must be answered:

(Clue: Not!)

How will the federal stimulus bill’s requirements reshape the governor’s education budget?

(Answer: They won’t.)

How will the Council on Revenues projections for FY20–21 and FY21–22 of an additional $471.65 million in revenues for the current and next fiscal year impact the governor’s budget?

(Clue: Obviously a political argument, not a legal argument.)

How has the $10 million of Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funding given to the governor to spend on education been spent?

(Clue: Obviously a political argument, not a legal argument.)

How will the governor spend the $4.4 million in additional GEER funding?

(Clue: Obviously a political argument, not a legal argument.)

How much money has the department saved this year due to distance learning? For example, savings from reduced busing, utilities, personnel, travel, etc.?

(Clue: You save money when HSTA gets paid without working.  Now we want to take that money, too!)

In the next few days, we will see what changes Gov. Ige has made to his budget. President-elect Biden has also proposed an additional $130 billion for K-12 public schools and $350 billion for states and local governments. We should wait to see how many of these proposals Congress approves and wait to answer the questions listed above before the BOE decides how to use stimulus funding in Hawaii. HSTA sees no reason why the BOE has to approve this budget now before these critical questions can be answered.

(Clue: Obviously a political argument, not a legal argument.)

If the BOE feels the urgency to do something now, then the money should be moved to alleviate deficits at the school level to preserve school positions and avoid devastating cuts. Those prudent moves would avoid violating H.R. 133 and protect our keiki for years and decades to follow.

(Clue: Not!)  

  *   *   *   *   *

Hanabusa Threatens Legislators with Jail?  LOL!

KHON:  HSTA attorney Colleen Hanabusa said, there are serious consequences for violating those provisions.  “They warn both the Governor and the superintendent, that you can be subject to penalties like the False Claims Act as well as debarment. So they’re making it very clear that when you’re signing this you have got to have an understanding of what you’re promising to do,” Hanabusa said.

SA: Hawaii teachers union challenges proposed staff cuts, use of federal funds for tutoring services 

CB:  The HSTA, joined Tuesday by Colleen Hanabusa … also argued that certain provisions in the stimulus bills require the state to maintain educator pay.

However, Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director of The School Superintendents Association, noted that the federal law permits “broad, flexible spending.”

“The intent of CARES II is to support state and local education agencies in their work to get schools open,” she said. “What’s mandated? Very little. What’s allowed? A heck of a lot.”

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