Saipan — So far, the news headlines here are about the Public School System’s funding woes; unhappy teachers who are on the verge of staging protest actions; lawmakers critical of the governor; government-funded travels; a federal investigation involving a casino; and corruption allegations.
As usual, those who believe that we are living in the worst of times are unaware of what actually happened in the past.
Forty years ago, teachers gathered outside the CNMI House of Representatives, which was then located in the Civic Center area on Beach Road, to demand a pay raise. According to Marianas Variety’s front-page story on Jan. 10, 1980, “All but two Saipan schools were closed…when 90% of the teachers called in ‘sick’ so…they could attend a session of the House…to urge its members to override the governor’s budget veto.” The vetoed budget included a pay raise for teachers. “But with barely a quorum…acting Speaker Pete Nakatsukasa issued warrants to arrest any absent [House member] who could be found on Saipan and bring him or her to the afternoon session. The effort failed, and the House adjourned….”
Undeterred, the president of the Saipan Teachers Association said they would call in sick again on the following day to “discuss strategy.” The superintendent of schools, Loran Kaprowski, said all but Tanapag and San Roque schools were shut down when the teachers called in sick. He said “teachers may take three sick days a year.”
In the House chamber, Speaker Oscar C. Rasa “lambasted the absent…members for not having the courage to explain their positions and cast their vote.” He said “it all boils down to a struggle for power,” referring to the “battle of the budget” between the CNMI’s first governor, Carlos S. Camacho, a Democrat, and the Legislature, both houses of which were controlled by the Territorial Party (which would later re-name itself the Republican Party).
Rasa “also questioned whether the travel costs of some absent members were paid by the executive branch or a Japanese investor.” He noted that all House members knew that the session had been scheduled for at least two weeks. The Senat