Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
My Blog

On Behalf of Hempstead

For the past week (Jan. 8-14), Long Island's premier paper Newsday, has printed headlines about the utter breakdown in the function of the Hempstead School Board. The focus on the school board's blatant failures to work in unity is, on one hand, long overdue, and on the other hand, off target.
     Hempstead has for so long been overloaded with section 8 residents and Central American immigrants that today's untenable situation is predictable. I don't mean to fault people who may need section 8 housing, and I certainly don't fault Central American immigrants who are leaving bloody gang warfare and natural disasters.
     Whom, then do I fault? The regional governments. There should be rules about absorbing needy people, and the Montclair Doctrine of the early 1970s was meant to set the standard: each community should bear a proportionate share of caring for our poor.
    But the Montclair rules were rapidly loopholed and undermined. Entire communities of black people got shifted from long-time locations that were poor and even blighted, yet functional, into tenements meant to contain and separate them, not to improve their lives.
     Hempstead got the same treatment as the Chicago projects and New York City projects that became infamous. (the Chicago projects have since been demolished.)  Disproportionate burdens of poor families and single people -- especially nonwhite -- get housed in Hempstead. Its school district has swelled from 6,400 students in 2004 to more than 8,000 now, while surrounding districts have remained about the same size during the same time period. Yet Hempstead's schools have been overcrowded and needing repairs at least since the late 1980s . . . 30 years! Three decades of continuing to pile more and more students into aging, badly repaired buildings and leaky trailers?
     Yes, the school board must behave better. But the regional abuse of Hempstead has to stop!

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