Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bad Week For School Boards—Bad Year for Most Everyone

In her blog, SF School Board Member, Rachel Norton, refers to the attack on the Panama City, Florida, school board, as an act of desperation and hopelessness, typical of how people are feeling today. “At almost every Board meeting, people come before us who are feeling very angry, desperate and hopeless—I am not sure we are fully prepared for what could happen if one of them were armed.

I find it interesting and refreshing that a school board member would take this stance, when other politicians and the media are portraying the gunman, Clay Duke, as a lunatic or terrorist, and crying out for greater security and secrecy and more heavy-handed policing. Here is a politician acknowledging her vulnerability without screaming for protection. Further, instead of simply writing Duke off as a wing nut, she implies that his anguish was justified, even if his actions were not.

According to Duke’s wife, he was a “gentle giant who was pushed over the edge by the economy and her job loss.” (Before opening fire on the school board, he had chastised them for firing his wife.) He was also reportedly bipolar, and a conspiracy nut, which may explain both the insanity of attacking a school board and the rambling and sometimes incoherent nature of his suicide note (see below). Nevertheless, it is clear from his testament that he was fed up with the growing consolidation of wealth and power by the rich, and the austerity they have imposed on the rest of us.

“Some people (the government sponsored media) will say I was evil, a monster (V). . . no . . . I was just born poor in a country where the Wealthy manipulate, use, abuse, and economically enslave 95% of the population. Rich Republicans, Rich Democrats. . . same-same. . . rich. . . they take turns fleecing us. . . our few dollars. . . pyramiding the wealth for themselves. The 95%. . . the us, in US of A, are the neo slaves of the Global South. Our Masters, the Wealthy, do, as they like to us. . .”

More Angry Men Expected At Future Board Meetings
Norton was prescient in her post. “I fear what we saw in Panama City. . . is just the tip of the iceberg. Last night school officials in Mt. Diablo Unified [across the bay from San Francisco] contemplated the desperate steps of closing up to seven schools, and the district is asking its employees for millions of dollars in wage and benefit concessions.”

Statewide, Norton estimates that education cuts for the 2011-2012 year could reach $500-750 per student. For SFUSD, alone, that could translate to an additional $20-35 million in cuts, on top of the $113 million they lost this year. That should anger plenty of parents and teachers.

Norton is not necessarily predicting more acts of violence, but she is suggesting that people are getting fed up. When people get angry enough, things can turn destructive and sometimes violent. Consider the numerous recent protests in France, England, Greece, Spain and Ireland.

People are getting fed up with the continuing bailouts of CEOs, investors and bankers and tax cuts for the rich, while the rest of us get squeezed with increasing job, pay and benefits cuts, increasing taxes, losses of social services and general social abandonment. People are particularly fed up with education cuts.

Hopefully folks will organize and fight back through direct action, rather than going “school board.”


  1. Thanks for your comments, Michael. I hope I'm wrong that this is the tip of the iceberg -- but things are getting rough out there.

  2. Things are very rough and this is the tip of the iceberg and organizing structures are weak right now. Nevertheless, my hope is that people will divert their outrage into organized and productive protest and not meaningless violence.