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Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Abercrombie’s first-day furlough fakery
By Andrew Walden @ 6:11 PM :: 7298 Views :: Energy, Environment

by Andrew Walden

It was all fake and it cost the General Fund $10M dollars.  Governor Neil Abercrombie’s “first gubernatorial action” to abolish furloughs did no such thing.  In fact Abercrombie’s December 6 release undid parts of a May 25 agreement between Governor Lingle and the BoE/DoE/HSTA which DID abolish instructional day furloughs.  But politicians and every single media outlet in Hawaii went along with the scam. 

The Star-Advertiser wrote: “Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced today that he would release $67 million from the state's hurricane relief fund to cover the cost of ending teacher furloughs….The money had been approved by the state Legislature last session but had been withheld by Gov. Linda Lingle.”

BoE Chair Garrett Toguchi deadpanned:  “Governor Abercrombie’s swift action ensures educators and students will be in school teaching and learning.” 

At his news conference, Abercrombie was surrounded by the Oahu County Democratic Party activists who occupied Governor Lingle’s office last spring in order to give the media a good agit-prop show that could be used to point the finger of blame.  The evening news was full of comments from man-on-the street interviews like: “Its about time.  That should have been taken care of a long time ago.”

So what was it that happened May 25, 2010?

That is the day Governor Lingle announced a $57M deal to raid Hurricane Relief funds in exchange for the BoE/DoE/HSTA eliminating all instructional day furloughs.  Here are some interesting quotes from the Governor’s May 25 news release:

“I am happy to announce that furloughs are over and children will be able to return to the classroom for the entire upcoming school year.  We have been able to do this without laying off teachers, increasing the size of classes, raising taxes, or adversely impacting the State budget,” Governor Lingle said.  “I am particularly proud that the major banks in our state stepped up and offered a line of credit that will give the Department of Education access to additional funds, if needed, to help end the furloughs.”

“On behalf of our teachers, principals, school officials and support staff, I am pleased we were able to reach this agreement today and allow teachers to start their summer recess knowing instructional time has been restored,” said Interim Superintendent Matayoshi.

“Students, administrators, teachers, staff and parents ought to be commended for being resilient, keeping their heads high and doing everything they could to weather a difficult academic year,” said Board of Education Chairperson Toguchi. “While we worked hard to avoid and end furloughs in the past year, I’m glad funding has now been approved to support the supplemental agreement reached between the Board of Education and the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association, giving back to students all the days they deserve to be in school.”

Lingle, Matayoshi, and Toguchi weren’t the only ones saluting the end of furloughs.  On its blog site, SoS Hawaii May 25 cheered:

Furloughs are Over! Furlough Fridays at Hawaii public schools are a thing of the past. Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday declared that with $57 million from the hurricane relief fund and a $10 million line of credit from local banks, teachers and other school workers will be back on the job five days a week next school year.”

These are the same activists who yesterday provided the human backdrop for Abercrombie’s dog and pony show.

Here are some of the headlines from May 26:

But yesterday, all of that went down the memory hole and Hawaii’s venal Democrat media was happy to join in creating the fiction that Abercrombie had just ended furloughs in his “first gubernatorial act.”  AP reported:

Longtime Democrat Neil Abercrombie took office Monday with a pledge to “make it happen” instead of creating excuses, and then he immediately spent $91 million for education and social services.

… he walked to his fifth-floor Capitol office and in his first acts as governor, he signed authorizations for spending $67 million to pay for a deal eliminating 17 planned school closure days this school year, and $24 million to support services for the needy.

In both cases, the money had been appropriated by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, but former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle withheld spending it because of the state’s precarious economic situation.

Then, in paragraph eleven, readers finally get a direct mention of the May agreement:

In May, Lingle agreed to spend $57 million and take a $10 million bank loan, although she never released the money.

“It’s just crazy. How can a head of state not keep her commitments?” asked Marguerite Higa, a parent arrested during a sit-in last spring at the governor’s office to protest school furlough days.

The implication is that Lingle welched on the May agreement.  This is a bald-faced lie. 

In a Star-Advertiser article, paragraph 16, after readers learned what clothes Abercrombie wore to his inauguration and that he had recently scattered the ashes of his late mother, akamai readers discovered an oblique reference:

Lingle had said she would only consider using $57 million from the hurricane relief fund for teacher furloughs, so local bankers had agreed to provide the remaining $10 million if necessary. Teachers agreed to take several planning days as furloughs as part of the deal.

By using the word, “consider” the implication is that no deal had been finalized.  Who wrote this article?  Oh that’s right, its by Derrick “I am not a Democrat” DePledge.  What a surprise.  He continues:

Kathryn Matayoshi, the state schools superintendent, said public schools expected to get the money for teacher furloughs eventually but worried whether they could manage until it was released.

"It's important that people know that the teachers are still giving days up -- and principals and everyone else are still giving days up -- but we're going to move forward with our transformation efforts," she said. "This is just a real good-faith sign that the governor is wanting to support education."

Actually it is a $10M giveaway.  And DoE finances are such a seive that Matayoshi apparently felt no need to thank Abercrombie for the extra $10M nor did she announce how it would be used.  Lingle had already eliminated instructional day furloughs for $57M back in May.  But nobody would know this from any of the media accounts yesterday or this morning. 

There is one other person whose comments were not fully reported.  His name is Neil Abercrombie.  His official news release announcing the release of the funds includes these sentences which never made it into any of the media converage:

The release fulfills the agreement reached to restore 17 instructional days for teachers. This does not bring an end to teacher furloughs on non-instructional days.    

George Orwell would be amazed.

---30---

Yesterday’s coverage:

REALITY:

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