CRAIG T. KOJIMA / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Joann Marshall read to daughter Kate yesterday while sitting on the floor in Gov. Linda Lingle's outer office during the second day of a sit-in calling for an end to Furlough Fridays. Parents in the group Save Our Schools said they would return today with more supporters.
A group seeking to end school furloughs continues a sit-in at Gov. Lingle's office

With sleeping bags, pillows, a baby stroller and a teddy bear, people continued a sit-in at Gov. Linda Lingle's outer office for the second day yesterday, demanding an end to furlough days at public schools.

"They're hoping they'll wait us out," said Vernadette Gonzalez, a Manoa resident who has two children. "We're hoping we can outlast them."

As evening approached, the 25 participants dwindled, and by 6:50 p.m. there were only four as people who went to restrooms downstairs or to tend their children were locked out of the fifth-floor office.

Many had arrived in the morning to relieve those who had spent the night. Parents in the group Save Our Schools, which is leading the sit-in, said they would return today with more supporters to take the place of those who stay overnight.

In a written statement, Lingle said the protesters' claims that she has not been personally involved in discussion about Furlough Fridays are "patently false."

"Since November of last year I have made three reasonable and what I believe are generous offers, given the current fiscal challenges, to end all teacher furlough days," Lingle said.

The governor said she strongly encouraged the teachers union to reconsider its stand that it will no longer negotiate.

Lingle said occupying government offices will not create additional revenues to end the furloughs and impedes the ability of the public to conduct business.

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe said state law requires his union to negotiate with the state Board of Education, and those negotiations are complete.

The board and the union have a $92 million supplemental agreement to end the furloughs through fiscal 2011.

But Lingle has supported a plan costing $62 million that would exclude paying "nonessential workers." She has said she will not release funds even if the Legislature approves the $92 million agreement.

In addition, she has tied the funds to lawmakers putting on the ballot a constitutional amendment that would allow the governor to appoint the school superintendent and abolish an elected school board.

Save Our Schools said the group decided to have the sit-in in view of the legislative deadline Monday to resolve the issue. The deadline has been extended to Wednesday, according to Save Our Schools officials.

Deputy sheriffs, saying there was too much food in the room, blocked a delivery of fruit yesterday from former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who is a candidate for governor.

State Sen. Will Espero (D, Ewa Beach-Lower Waipahu) spoke to protesters earlier in the day to show his support.

"They have put in a lot of time, energy and effort to get our kids back to school, and they need to know their efforts are appreciated," Espero said.

Marguerite Higa, a member of Save Our Schools, said she was frustrated and tired but was going to continue the sit-in until the governor decides to sit down with various parties to resolve the issue.

"We're going to stay here until she does the right thing," Higa said.

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