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Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, March 20, 2000

Something stinks
in our schools

TRY to imagine a public school on the mainland that is not heated in the winter and air conditioned on hot days.

Try to imagine a school built next to a pig farm where children are exposed to the smell of hog excrement and where flies landing on that excrement also land on the students' lunch. And try to imagine that on really hot days, when the aroma from the pig farm is particularly thick, the teachers are forced to close the doors and windows to block out the smell, forcing the kids to study in 100-degree classrooms.

Maybe you could find a school like that in some impoverished Third World country like Bangladesh. You certainly wouldn't find it in the continental U.S. Even in the poorest hollows of Appalachia, parents wouldn't stand for it. Local officials would be ridiculed as rubes and run out of town.

So it's sad that we in Hawaii don't have to try to imagine such a situation. All we have to do is look at Maili Elementary School, where children suffer filthy conditions. Their lunches become the landing pads for the little feces-coated feet of flies from nearby chicken and pig farms. Or we can look at just about any public high school where the only air-conditioned rooms are the principals' offices. These schools not only are not ready for the new millennium, they aren't even ready for 1950.

COULD you even conceive that in the year 2000 Hawaii's public schools would not even be AIR CONDITIONED? I mean, what kind of Third World, backwater pathetic excuse for a government would treat children this way? You can't expect kids to excel in school when they are just trying to cope.

I don't understand why parents are not going completely insane over the state's incompetence. Why aren't they screaming for the heads of their elected representatives and school administrators? Why do they allow their legislators to discuss nonsense like financing an investigation of the Capitol to see if it is a "sick" building when their kids attend classes in rickety wooden boxes deceptively called "portable classrooms"?

When are the parents going to wake up and realize that these are THEIR schools, bought and paid for with THEIR money? Would the parents of students in Punahou or Iolani allow their kids to be subjected to 100-degree classrooms and flies from nearby manure mounds? Why do the parents of kids in public schools put up with such corruption? If they were robbed at gunpoint of $50, they'd be outraged. But the government takes thousands of dollars out of their pockets with the empty promise of providing an education for their children. That's robbery, folks.

And don't tell me that there isn't enough money to fix the schools. We gave a million dollars to DONALD TRUMP! How many air conditioners would that buy? We poured $65 million into renovating the State Capitol so those people could sit up there in air-conditioned comfort and ponder lofty issues like whether it is a conflict of interest for a state senator under indictment to vote on the confirmation of the man who indicted him!

The condition of our public schools is a national embarrassment. Maili parents should truck a load of that chicken fecal matter down to the Capitol and dump it. If it doesn't get the legislators' attention, at least it would feel at home.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to or

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