Way down here in Hawai’i a lot doesn’t happen. The firestorm of resistance to the federal and private subsidizing of the ongoing extraction of more wealth from anyone outside the ruling uberclass in America is virtually non-existent. A couple of days ago, as I entered a nearby middle school office, I witnessed two teachers wearing red T-shirts and carrying signs. Two is better than none. I went up to them and asked them if they were the only ones supporting teachers and public education at the site. They told me that there are others but those others have fallen victim to administrative intimidation, or just don’t care enough to join them as they wave their signs outside before classes begin. Still others, they said, are so burdened with the extra preparation that comes with a Race to the Top gift, they are burned out enough and standing an hour before school begins is too much to handle. However, there is increasing hope. The teachers within the “Innovation Zones” (Read: schools designated as failing which coincidentally are located in the highest poverty areas) are more aggressive in their before and after school sign waving as more of the Race to the Top requirements have hit them first. The provisions in the RTTT will hit public schools outside of the “Innovation Zones” later.
Despite the lack of a contract with the state since 2009; despite the fact that Race to the Top money has enforced teacher evaluations based in part upon student scores on standardized tests (and responses from student questionnaires regarding students’ personal evaluation of their teacher); despite regressive proposals from the state regarding a new contract, teachers in Hawaii are well behind the Mainland in teacher advocacy and any “save our schools” activism. Opting out of testing garners little if any attention. The main consensus of the teachers is in line with HSTA, the state teachers’ union, which continues to maintain a wait and see position on when the state will even negotiate. The independent mediators (hand-picked by Hawaii’s governor, Neil Abercrombie) make mention that this contract business could take years to complete. Borrowing from a great blog, I say, “Wait. What?”
Remember when South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson (R) yelled out “You lie!” when the President said that the American Care Act would not mandate coverage for undocumented people? Republicans even laughed at Obama when he acknowledged that there were still significant details to be worked out before a health overhaul could be passed. Wilson was forced to apologize for his outburst. He didn’t want to apologize. Same with regards to education on the federal level. Only the “No” is bipartisan. With no apology. It is with the same indignation as shown by Rep. Wilson that DC ignores the voice of the majority of people in America. They lie.
Noam Chomsky said you can’t speak truth to power because those in power already know the truth. I agree. It’s just that they choose to ignore it in favor of political and personal gain. They know the truth regarding Wall Street fraud and corruption. They know that the financialization of a common good like our free and public schools is a taking, is a privatization of education supported by taxpayer-funded legislation. Our leaders in DC conveniently turn away from the facts which are in clear view: that it’s not about student outcomes, but the poverty, stupid. That private charters are held to lesser standards than public schools. That they support the budget cutting of public schools, starving the beast, shooting the buffalo from the Beltway train for the sport of financial and political capital and leaving them to rot, as they provide avenues of leveraged buyouts of existing schools by private enterprise, remain funding partners with further wealth extraction by allowing public schools to be shut down for the most dubious of reasons. While they publically espouse a great and equitable education for all citizens.
Our voices can shout back: we refuse to accept this; we refuse to participate in supporting the disposal of public education in America; we refuse to relegate our children’s future to some garbage heap of corporate metrics and class privilege.
The march on DC coming up will declare to our lawmakers that people, parents, students, teachers object to the government’s approval of starving public school budgets, laying blame on underwater state budget woes yet are ready to sacrifice public schools with further federally imposed budget cuts to education in the name of unneeded deficit cuts that will come with or without sequester.
The local public intermediate and high schools here on the west side of Hawai’i have “No Excuses” signs everywhere. In fact, teachers and other staff members are encouraged, with great prejudice, to wear shirts with the same phrase printing on them. These schools also reside in the highest poverty area in Hawai’i. All the “No Excuse” signs in the world will change current student behavior or student learning at the schools in high poverty areas of Hawai’i. These schools are failing because the state of Hawai’i is failing the people who live within these schools’ district boundaries. (Just a lingering thought on this. Hawai’i is the only state where there is only one DOE. And Hawai’i’s DOE supports the decisions of the BOE (hand-picked by our state’s governor who is seemingly in line with the U.S. Superintendent of Education, Arne Duncan). And we hear nothing from our state legislators, our senators, our representatives, regarding public education’s survival.
Like I said, not a lot down here happens. What happens on the Mainland takes some time to hit the islands. I hope that our voices will be heard in DC. If some things are not changed or re-arranged significantly, I feel there is little hope for anything of a great transitional nature occurring within our public schools here, or in any state. Without changing the will of those who claim to support the civil liberties of the people, public schools will continue to disappear.