Hawaii's public school system is very low on the scale nationally. Unfortunately, with the economy in such sad shape, the state also had to cut the school year by 17 days this year meaning even less time in the classroom. Even more unfortunately, violence and drug use are prevalent in both the high schools and middle schools.
Here are some of the (many) stories I have heard involving the school systems since we moved here:
My friend Susan had her kids in public school before she moved here. When she went to withdraw her kids from school, she told the teachers they were moving to Hawaii and both of her children's teachers told her, "Homeschool if you can. Don't put your children in the schools there." Both of these public school teachers said that they cringe when they hear they have a student transferring in from Hawaii because they are lucky if the student is "only" a year behind.
A neighbor down the street pulled her child out and started homeschooling when she realized that whenever her friends moved back to the mainland she would hear from them that the school system in whichever state they had moved to wanted to hold their kids back a year after giving them a placement test.
I listened to two twelve year old girls who attend the middle school here talk about their school one day. They mentioned that there is a fight pretty much every day and it's usually between girls. One girl said she didn't really like to cuss, but that anyone who wouldn't "act tough and cuss a lot" would be picked on mercilessly.
I know two moms who go to my church who are substitute teachers. One of them is a retired drill sergeant. They both refuse to teach at the middle school on post. Did I mention that one of them is a retired drill sergeant?
I met one of Kerry's co-workers recently who's kids went to the local high school off post for six months. After that, he sent his wife and kids back to the mainland to their last duty station because his kids were being threatened, ostracized, and offered drugs on such a regular basis. He is finishing out his tour of duty here without his family in order to keep his kids safe and properly educated.
I have one neighbor who has three kids in school here. She says she supplements at home to make sure her kids are learning everything really well and have a solid education. But if she is only making sure they have a full grasp what they are covering at the school, they will still be behind the curve when they go back to the mainland. If she is teaching them concepts they would be learning if they were on the mainland, then they will be sitting in school each day listening to lessons they already learned at home, so what's the point of being in school?
Another mom told me recently, "Parents who say they are in a good school district here are fooling themselves. There aren't any." If you are at the top of a pile of dog poo, you may be better off that the folks at the bottom of the pile, but it's still just a crappy place to be.
Now, I am a die-hard homeschooler. But I know it isn't for everyone. Not everyone is able to teach their kids and not everyone should. But I am baffled that people would rather risk their child's education and safety than put them in a private school or at least give homeschooling a try.
My kids come home from spending time with other kids and listening to their stories of what went on at school that day and they thank me.
I tell them, "You're very welcome."