Why aren’t we prioritizing education?

7 Mar

I don’t think about school that much anymore. I don’t have kids and I haven’t been in school for years. But a couple recent stories got me thinking about the state of our educational system in the East Bay and beyond.

Last week, Cal State East Bay fired a Quaker teacher because she changed the text of a loyalty oath that California public employees are required to sign:

A veteran public school math teacher who specializes in helping struggling students, Kearney-Brown, 50, had signed the oath before – but had modified it each time….

Each time, when asked to “swear (or affirm)” that she would “support and defend” the U.S. and state Constitutions “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Kearney-Brown inserted revisions: She wrote “nonviolently” in front of the word “support,” crossed out “swear,” and circled “affirm.” All were to conform with her Quaker beliefs, she said.

Though none of the previous schools districts she had worked for took action on these changes, Cal State East Bay fired her. As Robert in Monterey opined at Calitics, “Unless we believe that Quakers are somehow America’s biggest threat, this should be seen as a totally ridiculous and anachronistic injustice.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Normally, this might be seen as an injustice, but in the educational crisis we’re facing, it also seems pretty idiotic. We have a shortage of teachers – why let a good one go for something like this?

Though there didn’t seem to be such an uproar over her firing, students locally are taking notice of the Governor’s and republican legislature’s plans to gut education funding. On Wednesday, hundreds of students in Alameda walked out of their classes to protest the funding cuts that their district is facing.

I’m inspired by local students joining together in the face of funding cuts, but at the same time I’m angered that they feel the need to. It’s time for our elected officials to come together and prioritize education (not to mention health care and other important services), instead of prioritizing maintaining tax cuts and tax loopholes.


4 Responses to “Why aren’t we prioritizing education?”

  1. Alice McCain March 7, 2008 at 9:23 pm #

    Hi. Thank you for your blogging. I am an Oaklander, I live in and work for the city. My son goes to public school. You can meet me 5 days a week at the Temescal Library.
    I, also, scratch my head at the firing of a teacher for having the intelligence to make a contract that fit her values that still maintained the essence of it’s content.
    It reminds me of how we pay our taxes, but are not permitted to have input about how these funds are used. Yes, we have the vote, but it is slow and does’nt seem to work effeciently. Our teacher is a victim of the kind of red tape that takes decades to decompose and is often lingering around in the background, like blue laws are, just waiting for the day when we cross someone’s line.
    Perhaps she committed “fairness” and “honor.”
    Today, I read a Langston Hughes poem. Let America be America Again.
    I recommend it.

  2. Dogtown Commoner March 8, 2008 at 4:11 pm #

    FYI, they reinstated the math teacher and gave her all her back pay. It’s still appalling that they fired her, but at least someone in power realized how ridiculous it was (or at least someone in power was worried about all the bad press they were getting). They attached an amendment to her oath to the effect that she is under no obligation to take up arms in defense of the state, and that satisfied everyone (of course, that’s what she had wanted to do in the first place).

  3. Becks March 8, 2008 at 8:18 pm #

    Thanks for the update – that is good news.

  4. MoonSinger March 28, 2008 at 2:49 pm #

    This part of the law needs to be fixed regardless of what happens to the particular teacher involved this particular time. It’s bad law.

    State Senator Lowenthal authored a bill amend and repeal these sections.
    More info available at the California senate web site here:

    I wrote to Senator Lowenthal to ask what I could do to help get this passed, and he hasn’t responded.
    I also wrote to my state Senator Perata and he responded with a press release about forclosures.


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