Time To Fix Embarrassing Schools

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - January 04, 2012
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Our whole public schools mess makes me want to scream, tear out my hair, run downtown and choke somebody, and then set the whole system on fire.

Other than that, no problems.

I feel I’ve been an apologist too long, saying we have too many English-asa-second-language students, too many parents who don’t read to or discipline their kids, too low a pay scale for teachers, and principals insufficiently trained in management.

My excuses have run dry. They were empty ones anyway. The system has been broken as long as I’ve lived here, which is 50 years.

We deserve to lose and should lose Race To The Top funding. We warrant our reputation among Mainlanders as one of the worst-performing public school systems, and the dismay of transient parents who say that when their children transfer to Mainland schools they are behind their peers.

We had really bad superintendents when I came here. We’re only marginally better off under Kathryn Matayoshi this year. I didn’t expect better. She grew up in the flawed system and was always OK with it.

I’m torn about placing blame, but I lean toward heaping much of it on the teacher’s union that has, even as a liberal National Education Association affiliate, behaved more like an AFL-CIO union looking at educators the way the AFLCIO looks at factory workers. It’s all about salary, vacations, pensions. Don’t try to evaluate our work because we’re all equal workers in the factory. Don’t even think about merit pay for those with better credentials and better classroom results because we are equals.

It’s factory-union mentality. We’re all working on the car assembly line. Who’s to say who is working better?

Hawaii schools have become one of those experimental factories where the workers take over management and production goals. The overseers (our principals) join in this revision because they are HGEA unionists and don’t feel comfortable criticizing fellow “working class” colleagues who are struggling against The Man. So we get an “all for one and all for one” factory system, which historically has not worked well and largely has been abandoned except in Hawaii.

I do not blame our centralized DOE system. Without it and with islandby-island school taxation, small community schools would die. That happens on the Mainland, where towns with limited revenue and older populations without school-age children vote down local school taxes. We finance statewide and that’s been good for us. Oahu supports Molokai.

Island-by-island school governance? I don’t like this-and-that parent pressure deciding what science to teach, which history to allow and how many in-school days.

Is state government at fault? Yes, somewhat. That decision to furlough teachers and close schools was atrocious. It was like laying off factory workers. It reinforced teachers’ sense of themselves as factory workers.

But when the HSTA union came to the table this last time, its leadership did not take the high road of “let’s get beyond those bad Lingle years.” It went low road. It resisted drug testing after agreeing to it. It resisted evaluations and merit pay. It wanted to continue as a factory union.

Look where HSTA has taken us: laughingstock of the nation’s education system.

Correction: Apologies to UH Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw for misspelling her name last week.

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