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Friday Furloughs: Judge Allows Hawaii to Cut Class

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 11, 2009 5:50 AM

One of the cornerstones of our national success is the requirement that all children regularly attend school. Except in Hawaii, not on Fridays.

In the state with the shortest school year of any in the country (just 163 days of instruction a year), due to severe school budget cuts, Aloha Friday is now furlough Friday. Parents are furious, and the result has been two suits brought against the Department of Education for the State of Hawaii

On Monday, 9th Circuit court Judge Wallace Tashima refused to grant a preliminary injunction which would have immediately halted the furloughs. However according to attorney Carl Varady, one of the lead attorneys who filed the suit on behalf parents of special education students in Hawaii public schools, claiming the furloughs violated sections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), even Judge Tashima admitted that the students were "suffering irreparable harm" by losing instruction days.

Under the IDEA, states accepting federal funds must provide disabled students with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to prepare them for further education and independent living. The suit filed claims in part, that the furloughs violate the act by not only interfering with the progress of the students, but by making changes in the special education individualized programs without consulting parents, an action which may not conform with requirements to involve parents in all aspects of planning their child's education.

Special Education students are of course, not the only ones harmed by the shortened school year, and a second class action suit was filed by attorney Eric Seitz on behalf of all other students of Hawaii public schools.

Hawaii state Attorney General Mark Bennett claims there is "nothing obviously illegal under the IDEA," about the state's furlough program. Additionally, Bennett claimed that the alternative to school budget cuts through furloughs would be massive layoffs. 

Judge Tashima encouraged Special Master, U.S. Dist. Ct. Judge David Ezra, to continue working with all parties to find a solution. An appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is planned on behalf of the students.

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