Robert A. Teegarden's Blog

April 27, 2010

Hawaii’s Days of Infamy: Redux

Or… “Robbing Iniki to pay Pele.”

For those not familiar with either, Iniki is the name of the famous hurricane that passed dead-center through the island of Kauaii on 9/11/1992.  We’re told that one could not find a frog on that devastated island for five years hence.  Pele is the goddess of the volcano. Prior to the arrival of Captain Cook in January of 1778, the Hawaiians held blood-letting sacrifices to Pele by tossing virgins (male and female) into the fiery calderas—this was to atone, appease, or appeal. Kids in Hawaii are still being thrown into the fires today, albeit political fires.  I’m not sure which burns brighter but a sacrifice is still a sacrifice.

 Governor Lingle, the state School Board and the teachers’ union are at it… again.  Most of the story was covered in my first blog. But this week’s works again strain credulity. If the state lawmakers would approve, funds would be shifted from the Hurricane Relief Fund to “restore 11 teacher furlough days” next year.  The Hurricane Relief Fund is Iniki, and Pele is the cartel of the teacher’s union, state School Board et al.  The equation is elementary: education + politics = $$$.

 The Hurricane Relief Fund was established as a cushion to provide insurance policies specifically in the event of hurricane damage, insurance that was jeopardized and almost extinct after the fiscal disaster that was Iniki. but something required by law.  If you have a mortgage, you have to have it.  Now, the state policy folks are going to shift $57.2 million of those dollars over so that teachers will go back to work for 11 days next year.  Wow!  Sounds reminiscent of Social Security.  What happens if there is another hurricane in the near future?  Will the teachers and their organizations pay the damages?

 But there’s more to it than the crass politics.  It seems the very “Aloha Spirit” that was once common to the islands is itself being swallowed up by politics.  The politics and reporting seem one-sided.  The Honolulu Advertiser noted that parents in the Save Our Schools organization praised Governor Lingle’s actions and hoped that she would tap into more restricted funds and chase after the stimulus funds from Washington.  No where did they speak about site-by-site investigations to determine where costs could be cut further. It’s been three months.  They noted that the Governor wants “to get the kids back to school this year and the next.”  What about the teachers and the unions?  The governor noted that “they want to return to the classroom.”  But have they?

 There has been a lot of hurt.  Healing is needed.  “Good faith” is being tested in every corner.  More than gestures of support are needed to recapture that Aloha Spirit, that trust that once marked an entire culture.   Above all, there needs to be clarity in their analysis and deliberations. As an example, if parents took their children out of school for the times suggested they could be brought up on charges; but when the unions do that, there’s no consequence. Why is that?  What about the promise of (at least) 180 school days and a “world class education?”  Where’s the voice of the young ones sacrificed in this caldera of conflict?

 Everyone needs to start asking much larger questions?

  • What happened to the $600 million surplus in the education budget in 2006-07?
  • Isn’t  $12,786.83 per student spending enough to get the job done?  Or maybe we should ask: When is enough enough?  $200,000 per classroom revenues should be sufficient.  Maybe should look elsewhere for cuts.
  • Are you getting your money’s worth:
    • 4th grade reading – 46th of 50 states; 8th grade reading – 46th of 50 states
    • 4th grade math – 41st of 50 states; 8th grade math – 48th of 50 states.
    • Why would the government want to force children to attend obviously inferior schools when cost-effective alternatives are available, usually on the same block?

 The Enquirer also noted that Hawaii made national news when a group of parents “began a sit-in at the governor’s office in protest of the teacher days.”  They seem to have also forgotten that in education it takes three to teach:  a parent, a student and a teacher.  In government schools, if takes even more: student, parents, teachers, unions.  Why were there no sit-ins at the union offices, at the school board’s offices or outside faculty rooms? You may not have elected them, but they’re part of the government just the same.  Just because they are your neighbors doesn’t make them right!   It’s too easy to find and target a political scapegoat in these matters; the reasons are as complicated as the many kapus in the Hawaiian tradition.

 The history books say that Captain Cook died over an argument dealing with a stolen rowboat.  I think not; he was the captain.  To the people of Hawaii he was considered a god.  I believe Cook was invited to witness one of their sacrifices, the invitation from one god to another; when asked his opinion of what he just saw, Cook probably responded in clear, unambiguous outrage and disdain. They killed him because now he knew.

Like Captain Cook of old, we can no longer allow kids to be sacrificed on the altars of politics and greed.  Parents need other choices.

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