Hawai‘i educators join thousands in Florida “Freedom to Learn” rally
Nearly 90 Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association members joined more than 3,000 educators in Orlando, Florida, to rally Wednesday morning.
The National Education Association, the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association’s parent organization, held a Freedom to Learn rally to demand that politicians stop banning books and politicizing public education.
“In states like Florida and throughout the country, efforts are underway to ban books, to stop teaching the truth about history, and to stop saying gay,” said Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association President Osa Tui Jr. “These are things that we need to make sure don’t come to our shores in Hawaiʻi. We’ve seen it starting; we want to make sure it stops. We’re here to support our delegates from across the country that are going through these issues, and Hawaiʻi stands strong with them.”
“We also want to make sure that we are uplifting the voices of everybody in our state, regardless of who they are and what they believe or who they choose to love and what race they are, what nationality they are, because Hawaiʻi is an accepting place,” said Sarah Tochiki, band director at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauaʻi. “Hawaiʻi is a diverse place, and we want to make sure that we show the rest of the country how awesome it is that we are in Hawaiʻi, and we really are accepting of others, and let’s keep it that way.”
Ninety Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association members, seven retired members, and one aspiring educator are in Orlando this week for the 2023 National Education Association Representative Assembly, where educators from every state debate and vote on issues that impact American public education and set National Education Association policy and activities for the year ahead.
The 6,000-member delegation has already approved a comprehensive plan to organize members in support of the LGBTQ+ community in light of targeted attacks and anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives, as well as elevate culturally responsive pedagogical and curricular resources.
“Extreme politicians, including Gov. Ron DeSantis (R, Florida), are recklessly banning books about Martin Luther King Jr. and Anne Frank, attempting to erase and dehumanize the LGBTQ+ community, blocking students from learning AP African American Studies, and restricting the freedom of educators to teach, and of students to learn,” a Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association announcement reads. “These actions push hatred and division into our classrooms, instead of addressing the real issues students face, including gun violence, educator pay, and shortage of educators.”
With 3 million members, the National Education Association is the largest union in the country, and its annual Representative Assembly is the world’s largest democratic deliberative assembly.