Ian sent the following to Newsday to publish. He has not heard back from them yet.
There were two articles recently in Newsday that signal a dangerous dehumanization of the homeless. The article which appeared today has the headline “Some parents object to more homeless kids in Hauppauge school” [September 18, 2013]. The headline is misleading because no actual Hauppauge parents are quoted in the article as objecting.
Only Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset), is quoted claiming that some un-named parents complained to him. Kennedy’s credibility takes an even bigger hit because he doesn’t seem to understand how school taxes work. He states that taxpaying parents have the right to question whether other people’s children should be educated in their district. I have news for Mr. Kennedy: everyone pays schools taxes, whether they have children or not. That means that everyone in the community has equal say in how the schools are run. Taxpaying parents have no greater say in how the money is used than any other person in the district. If someone in the community is not a parent or a taxpayer, they still have an equal say.
As a taxpayer without children, I declare that I want my school tax dollars earmarked exclusively to educate homeless children. As a taxpayer without children, I am told by taxpaying parents that I should cheerfully pay school taxes to support our community. After all, I am told, I will want to live, and grow old, with those around me as best educated as possible. I agree with that. Well, those parents can’t have it both ways. If I am supporting the community — then that means all the children in the community — not just those with the benefits of a stable home.
This story reminds me of the stories of Tanya McDowell of Connecticut, and Kelley Williams-Bolar of Ohio. They were both homeless. They were both persecuted and prosecuted for the crime of getting their children an education in the supposedly wrong school. It is not surprising that there is both underlying racism and classism in their stories. Similarly, the median income for a family in Hauppauge is $101,213. And, Hauppauge is 93% white. Is the objection to the homeless children attending school in Hauppauge based solely on their financial status?
And by the way Mr. Kennedy, those homeless families are your constituents. It is your responsibility to make sure that those children get the education guaranteed to them by New York State. Where are you suggesting they get that education? It is not acceptable to just push children out of a school. You must also see to it that they are accepted into a school where they can get a good education.
I don’t remember Mr. Kennedy speaking up to protect school tax dollars when the New York State Comptroller revealed that millions of tax dollars were being stolen from school districts by homeowners fraudulently claiming a STAR exemption on their second home. Is his outrage saved to rail against the poor?
Don’t think that dehumanization and demonization of the homeless is solely a tactic of Republican politicians. Babylon’s Democratic Town Supervisor and Suffolk County Democratic Party Chair Richard Schaffer is equally attacking the homeless. In the Newsday article, “North Babylon residents: Squatters have moved in” [September 10, 2013], Schaffer calls in the Suffolk Police, Child Protective Services, the banks, and the Suffolk County Water Authority to force out these homeless families.
The two articles in Newsday about the “squatters” never give a hint that Schaffer tried to find a safe place for these people — including children — to live, instead of their living in abandoned houses. Newsday quotes Schaffer’s violent-sounding threats against the homeless families: “The only way you deal with a situation like this is you pound away. If we use every force we have to get their attention, we will get them out.” Does Schaffer think homeless families want to live in an abandoned house with no utilities? This is yet another head-in-the-sand response. Like Kennedy, Schaffer does not seem to realize that these people are his constituents.
Homelessness is a problem that our politicians and our media seem to want to pretend does not exist in suburban Long Island. The politicians, the media, and the rest of us need to step up to the plate to help these members of our community, instead of trying to pretend that we can just push them out to some place where we don’t have to see them.
Filed under: Babylon Politics, babylon town, children, Education, ian wilder, local, long island, Long Island Politics, media, new york, New York State Politics, News, politics, progressive politics, social & economic justice Tagged: | democratic, democratic party, Hauppauge School District, Hauppauge Schools, homeless, John Kennedy, Legislator John Kennedy, Long Island schools, republican, Rick Schaffer, Suffolk County Democrats, Suffolk County news, Suffolk County politics, Suffolk County schools, Town of Babylon