This measure is a policy statement that concludes, “the people of San Francisco oppose U.S. military recruiters using public school, college and university facilities to recruit young people into the armed forces. Furthermore, San Francisco should oppose the military’s ‘economic draft’ by investigating means by which to fund and grant scholarships for college and job training to low-income students so they are not economically compelled to join the military!”
The measure was placed on the ballot through the citizen initiative process. Legally, policy resolutions such as Proposition I do not need to be on the ballot, but can be adopted by the Board of Supervisors. However, a policy statement can be submitted to the voters by the mayor alone, four or more supervisors, or through the citizen initiative process.
Currently, military recruiters are allowed access to public school campuses and student information for the purposes of recruiting under federal law. The measure arises out of discontent with the nature and application of these federal policies in San Francisco and elsewhere.
This measure is a non-binding policy statement. Accordingly, it is primarily symbolic and would have no direct legislative impact. Proposition I would suggest to the Boards of San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and CCSF that student information should not be given to military recruiters and that campus access should be denied to recruiters. Should those bodies choose to follow this suggestion, they would likely risk denial of federal funds under federal law. As noted above, however, Proposition I is advisory only and would not affect federal funding absent subsequent action. Proposition I also expresses displeasure over the war in Iraq, and notes what authors call the “economic draft” of poor people who are more likely to need to enter the military because they lack the means to pay for college.
Those who support Proposition I state:
- Student records at local schools should be subject to some form of privacy rights
- For the federal government to demand access to local records is a violation of local control and should be disputed. The denial of federal funding for basic local services like education in order to enforce a controversial policy is an inappropriate strong-arm tactic in local-federal relations
- The increasing expense of education and decreasing availability of public support make it difficult for poor San Franciscans to get a good education. While military service is seen by many as a respectable career, aspiring students who are poor should not be disproportionately compelled to risk their lives in the military because they lack other options to pay for college
Those who oppose Proposition I state:
- The student records the measure would protect are only names and addresses, and the mailed literature from military recruiters is essentially the same as unsolicited mail from colleges and universities There is little reason to block students from simply receiving this information
- The precedent for tying federal funding to compliance with federal priorities has already been firmly established in court. Whether we like it or not, the federal government does have the ability to enforce policy directives using economic pressure
- San Francisco cannot afford to risk losing federal funding for SFUSD or CCSF given the City’s ongoing budget shortfalls and the State’s budget crisis, as it would if it implemented the policies recommended in this measure
- The measure’s call for the City to “investigate means by which to fund and grant scholarships for college and job training to low-income students” sounds great, but is virtually meaningless. Many people in San Francisco and elsewhere already dedicate their lives to this problem, and vague, off-hand calls for “investigation” contribute little to its solution
SPUR has no position on Proposition I. In order to take a position supporting or opposing any ballot measure, SPUR requires a vote of 60 percent of its Board of Directors. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach this threshold on Proposition I.
SPUR is often ambivalent about policy statements of this nature. This measure is clearly well intended, and may provide an outlet for political expression. The issues raised by Proposition I are important ones—privacy issues with recruiting, the use of federal funding to strong-arm local governments on policy issues, and the fact that poor people disproportionately serve in the military for lack of other economic options. However, by its nature Proposition H is purely symbolic, and it addresses these complex, serious issues very superficially. Moreover, even if the measure were more than symbolic, risking the denial of federal school funding would be disastrous, and would likely cause the most harm to the very people this measure seems intended to protect: low-income children who desperately need a high-quality education.