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The Associated Press March 5, 2010, 11:02AM ET

Hawaii proposes education cuts in state budget

Hawaii's proposed state budget increases public school class sizes, lays off administrators and slashes money from the University of Hawaii.

But the supplemental budget approved by the House Finance Committee on Thursday also makes money available to restore some of the 17 furlough days scheduled next school year.

It will get a vote before the full House next week before moving to the Senate for additional consideration.

The $10 billion annual budget is intended to trim expenses to help the state address a projected $1.2 billion budget deficit through June 2011.

Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro said this budget is about $41 million slimmer than Gov. Linda Lingle's proposal.

"We took care of basic needs: health, human services and education," said Oshiro, D-Wahiawa-Poamoho. "We prioritized what programs and services people want and are willing to pay for."

Class sizes would increase by about one student with a cut of $18 million from weighted student formula funds.

Forty administrators would be let go after the Department of Education added 80 state and complex area administrators between 2003 and 2008, said Rep. Lynn Finnegan, R-Mapunapuna-Foster Village.

"If instruction time is the first and foremost priority of the Department of Education, then why was it cut when these positions remain on the books? It's upside-down to me," Finnegan said.

Funding to the University of Hawaii would drop by $10 million after professors approved a labor contract giving themselves pay raises in the future while accepting 6.7 percent salary cuts through June of next year.

The university can raise tuition to make up for the lost money, Oshiro said.

The budget appropriates $50 million to be spent on reopening schools on teacher furlough days if Lingle and the teachers union can reach a deal. Separate bills are advancing that would raid $50 million of rainy day funds or $86 million of hurricane relief funds to end furlough days both this school year and next.

"I'm very concerned about the additional deep cuts to the Department of Education," said Board of Education Chairman Garrett Toguchi. "We will need to take a close look at the budget details to determine its impact on the quality of teaching, federal compliance and daily support to schools and students."

The budget plan also allocates more than $16 million to pay for about 1,000 jobs, many of which were targeted in last year's layoffs, including plant quarantine inspectors, child protective services workers, adult protective services employees and security officers at Hawaii State Hospital.

Lingle would still have the power not to spend the money for those jobs, Oshiro said.

In addition, the budget restores funding for state libraries and adds jobs at the Office of Veterans Services.

Savings of about $95 million would come from eliminating government contracts for services.

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