The road to civilization has come to a cliff


POSTED: Monday, December 14, 2009

Recently Ben Vereen said during a surprise appearance at a state Capitol rally something like: “;If we don't have education and the arts, we don't have culture, and if we don't have culture, we don't have a civilized society.”; His words rang true and he connected with his audience.

Every day that our Hawaii headlines focus on the furlough days for our public schools and the rest of the state workers, we are taking a step backward. For far too long we have only given lip service to our public schools, the students and teachers. Our teachers continue to slip further down the pay scale.

The few loud voices continue to say that we are throwing money at schools and not getting any return. This is not possible considering the funds that are thrown yearly for wars around the world by the United States. Years ago, I was attacked by an angry man who disliked my bumper sticker that read: “;May we one day have bake sales for war budgets instead of public schools.”;

The state Department of Education budget is just one of the many state budgets that have been sliced to pieces more than annually for the past eight years. I have seen school budgets cut beyond recognition. With endless cuts, one sees maintenance and repair budgets sliced again and again.

At one school, the teachers sweep their own classrooms on a regular basis. As a substitute teacher, I was asked to vacuum a classroom at the end of the day because daily janitor services were cut to balance the budget.

The lack of financial and managerial skills by the state administration has pitted the taxpayer against the state service workers. Instead of demanding that the Governor's Office repay the millions spent from discretionary funds on pet projects, the blame game reaches new heights, i.e., the $50 million that was spent on the Superferry that did not have an environmental impact statement is just one example of mismanagement. Recently the Governor's Office announced that $50 million would meet the DOE shortfall. Is this part of the old shell game that continues to fuel the budget blame game or a joke?

To add injury to insult, the recent state layoffs leaves a trail of division, confusion and mass stress. It is unconscionable to move workers from one job to another without communication between the workers and the two offices involved in the changes.

Above and beyond this were the pink slips handed out one day, only to be replaced the next day with a note to the worker after 4 p.m. that they had until midnight to accept a position without information about the next assignment. Or else?

One computer employee was given notice of a transfer to a case manager position. The computerwise employee worries about their lack of training and experience in social services that could harm future clients. Another employee doesn't know the new job title or duties, just that some dictator has spoken.

Moving bodies without consideration of education, experience and training is a sure-fire formula for disaster.

All the work done to improve working conditions over more than a century is swept aside in one crazy moment. A worker without rights, dignity or consideration is a slave, plain and simple.

The worst stories are yet to come when Hawaii's clients reap the disaster of such layoffs and reassignments. The road to civilization has come to a cliff.

The Rev. Carolyn Martinez Golojuch, a resident of Makakilo, holds a master's degree in social work.