Guest Editorial: Exclusive to the West of Twin Peaks Observer
JROTC in San Francisco Public Schools
By Dr. Dan Kelly
Vote No on Proposition V
Before phasing out JROTC, the School Board listened to students, parents and community members on both sides. It weighed the arguments and considered what might be lost and what might be gained. It learned that many students seek leadership and community service opportunities, and that they want electives and after school activities which confer skills that translate into careers later.
Students identified these qualities in numerous activities, such as Peer Resources, sports teams, outdoor education, student newspapers, activity clubs, Service Learning, Student Government, and others which already exist in the District without the drawbacks of JROTC. Eight hundred students petitioned the School Board to end JROTC and to use the $1,000,000 saved to expand and add to existing programs.
JROTC’s contract with the School District requires a “course of military instruction” by instructors who don’t need even a college degree. No JROTC classes meet State academic standards, and military skills translate poorly into real-world job skills. Lower skills mean lower prospects for the poor and minority students who are the primary targets of JROTC. But four years of military classes leave less room for the math, science, and foreign language classes, which do provide solid preparation for college and careers.
San Franciscans overwhelmingly opposed recruitment in schools when they passed Proposition I in 2005, so JROTC supporters now deny that JROTC recruits children locally, while admitting that it does so elsewhere. JROTC directives and policy statements urge instructors to “facilitate contact with recruiters”, to “sell the Army story”, and to contact students as early as possible. “Seventeen is too late”, states one such directive. The Pentagon boasts that 40 – 50% of all JROTC cadets join the military. JROTC supporters continue to deny it. But the School District has no information on local enlistment and the supporters don’t either. They simply haven’t asked for real numbers from the Pentagon, the only agency that could know.
How voluntary is JROTC? Many students are forced into San Francisco JROTC for purely administrative reasons, or as punishment. Immigrants have been told to accept JROTC assignment to protect their families from deportation. Three quarters of those who chose JROTC said they wanted to avoid Physical Education, and half of JROTC cadets would take non-military marching band if offered.
Before it voted, the School Board also noted that JROTC instructors, who are chosen by the military, can’t be openly gay; that JROTC creates funding imbalances between schools; and that JROTC instructors, who carry half the student load, receive much higher pay than credentialed teachers.
Last year the School Board ended involuntary placements in JROTC, and enrollment dropped 30%. This year it is allowing more substitutes for Physical Education, exploring band funding, and starting a new, four-year Leadership track. It is responding to what students want and need.
Proposition V is a divisive wedge issue placed on the ballot with funding from conservative groups outside SF, and outside the State. Students deserve greater opportunities without military sponsorship. Vote No on Proposition V.