Furlough Fridays

Ah, Furlough Fridays. Officially putting Hawaii on the map as the state with the fewest school days. Have you heard? Every other Friday, the keiki– kids– must be out of school to save money. This caused a great uproar, many lawsuits, and the federal education secretary to step in and say that Hawaii can fuggedabout any federal grant money next year, grants worth more than the shortfall. This in turned caused the governor to a) tell the fed ed sec to quit sticking his nose in local biz (as if!) and b) to say, as though it was a great revelation, “Why don’t we use our rainy day fund instead?”

What? There’s a rainy day fund? Why weren’t we already using it?

You mean this was (gasp) political?

The governor went on a trip to China and said that the “distance” caused her to rethink her plan. Apparently, governing is best done from another country. Now, I wasn’t here when the governor was elected, and it looks like she’s done some good stuff, but really. That is just…well. You know what it is.

What happened was, as far as I can tell (because no one will really own up to anything): Gov. Lingle said we need to cut 17 days of school or have teacher layoffs. She then left it up to the teacher’s union leaders to decide which days to cut. No magical invisible rainy day fund was mentioned.

Instead of using some of the teacher workdays or just starting school in August instead of July, as the governor later said she expected them to do, the union leaders decided to cut school on Fridays at the same time as the other state workers. This was apparently led by the fact that the school support staff (different union) was already taking furlough on those days; and if kids showed up with no office staff there would be chaos.

Are my facts straight? Correct me if I’m wrong. It’s based on talking to teachers and the newspaper. (Plus, hey, I would LOVE comments, because I’m talking to myself up in here.)

The upshot? No teacher I know is happy. No parent I know is happy. The kids are happy because they get lots of three day weeks, unless they’re the kids who depend on school lunch for food and get left home alone on Fridays because their parents can’t afford the $25 to $100 extra in childcare per Friday (depending on which activity or babysitting service it is).

No wonder everyone said private schools were the way to go before we moved here. It’s like public schools are the children of the first spouse, and now Daddy has a whole new family and the first children get a token birthday card, but nobody comes to see their plays. Hmm, a bit labored, that metaphor, but you get it.

Our particular schools are great. The kids love attending and their teachers push them. The teachers are committed, the parents involved. But the way that public education is viewed as a throwaway by the Powers That Be– not so cool. I’m going to have to see how many bigwigs send their kids to public school, not private.

So what are we doing with all this free time? On one of our local school’s websites, parents were asked what they were doing regarding F.F. The responders all said highly educational stuff, like they weren’t letting their kids watch TV and they’re enrolling them in enrichment classes, and building a rocketship to Mars.

This is what we’re doing. I sleep in an extra twenty minutes, then I roll out of bed and take Kaiya to pre-K. The other kids watch television. Yes they do. I admit it. They watch CARTOONS. Their wee brains are turning gelatinous. They do their homework (they get extra on these Fridays). I tell them to be quiet and not get me unless there’s a fire, and then I work, too. This week, we’re planning a movie and/or playdate. In short, we’re chillin’. Like villains. Or whatever.

The good news is that there’s hardly any traffic on Furlough Fridays. This means that people are taking that day off (unpaid) to care for their kids, consequently putting less money back into the economy. Not to mention all the legal fees the state has to pay for the lawsuits.

It is possible that this plan could have been better thought out. Just barely possible.

They really should have asked me.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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