via Ka Leo O Hawaii: UH Manoa Student College Newspaper & Media – Furlough Fridays alter UH students, faculty and their children’s education.

By Junghee Lee

News Co-Editor

Published: Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Folder/WEB Furlough-3.png 

Reece Gascon (left) and Rachel Momohara wear signs in protest of Furlough Fridays at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol on Oct. 23, 2009.

Furlough Fridays are preventing student-parents at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa from attending class and receiving their education. 

According to financial aid records, 450 UHM students who applied for aid have a child.

When Furlough Fridays began Oct. 23, UHM students with Friday classes either had to find a substitute child care option, watch their child themselves or bring their child to class.

Among these three options, Zoila Castaneda, a graduate student in political science, decided to ask her professor for permission to bring her 4-year-old daughter to her Friday class.

“This is great since we spend time together,” Castaneda said, “but it also distracts me in class because I have to check in with her and make sure she is entertained enough. She’s been great but has interrupted the class a little, and her presence is definitely noted.”

Castaneda was unable to miss a day of class because it only met on Fridays from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

“I would have to find a babysitter for that time because I’m here to focus on my studies and cannot continue to be distracted in class,” Castaneda said. “It affects my learning, and I don’t like doing things halfway, which is what I feel like I’m doing in class right now.”

UHM faculty and staff have also been impacted by Furlough Fridays. Castaneda’s professor, Sankaran Krishna, understands her situation because his circumstances are the same.

On Furlough Fridays, Krishna and his wife, who is a professor at Kapi‘olani Community College (KCC), take turns bringing their fifth-grade son to work. Krishna is more concerned about the quality of education for his son than the fact that he has to take his son to work with him.

“I think with the Furlough Fridays we drop to the 50th out of the 50 states in education,” Krishna said. “It makes me think about sending my child to private school, but as a public university professor, I do have a commitment to public education.”

Krishna believes that Furlough Fridays could be harming Hawai‘i’s public education system long-term.

“A weak public school system is going to feed into a weak public university, which is then going to produce a really weak population in terms of intellectual abilities, entrepreneurships and a whole range of other things,” Krishna said. “It is going to come back and cost us in the long run.

“Education is an investment, not an expense.”

The public’s voices are being heard in the Legislature. On Nov. 15, Gov. Linda Lingle proposed two plans to lessen Furlough Fridays. The first is to use 15 non-instructional paid days for teachers as school days, and second to restore 12 Furlough Fridays by using $50 million of the “rainy day” fund. This proposal has not yet been passed.