What it does
Proposition V is a policy statement to give voters the opportunity to make the statement that San Francisco schools should continue to maintain a Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program. The measure states, "It is hereby the policy of the City & County of San Francisco that students in San Francisco public high schools should continue to be able to choose to participate in the schools' Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program."
The proposed ballot measure would be advisory in nature, meaning it would not compel the San Francisco Unified School District from maintaining a JROTC program. Passage of the measure would simply indicate to school board members how the majority of San Franciscans feel about the program.
Why it is on the ballot
Prop. V was placed on the ballot through a signature campaign.
The Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps began in 1916. While its initial focus was to identify enlisted recruits and officers, it changed over the years to a focus on citizenship and more recently to a focus on life skills and civic responsibility. While JROTC instructors are all active duty Army retirees, the program is less focused on the military today than in the past.
Nationwide, there are 1,645 schools with JROTC programs that serve 281,000 students. The San Francisco JROTC program is both during and after-school and currently serves over 1,400 high school students (which represents a decline of 200 since the passage of the policy to phase out JROTC). The majority of the students are girls.
The school board and voters have previously voted against the presence of military in schools on several occasions. Prior to the passage of No Child Left Behind, San Francisco schools barred military recruiting from public schools. Then in November 2005, 59 percent of the voters approved Prop. I, which made it City policy to oppose military recruiting in public schools. SPUR took "No Position" on Prop. I.
In 2006, the school board voted to phase out the seven JROTC programs in city high schools by June 2008. The primary justification was that the JROTC program is operated by the U.S. Military, which bars gays and lesbians, and that the board has no say over who is hired as an instructor.
A separate vote in December 2007 allowed the program to continue until June 2009 while the district identified and piloted a replacement program. However, in June 2008, the school board took away the physical education credits students receive for enrolling in JROTC -- making it very difficult for students to keep the program in their academic schedule since it would no longer count towards overall credits required for college admittance.
Arguments in favor of Prop. V:
- A prior ballot measure, passed by voters in November 2005, stated that there should be no military recruiting in public schools. Although this measure was illegal under federal law, it is being used politically as an argument against the JROTC measure. This measure would clarify the City's policy on this issue to show that there is support for the specific JROTC program.
- We continue to lose families and children in the school district. Maintaining more programs that are popular with parents and students may be a way to help keep students in the district.
- JROTC is a successful program in San Francisco. Ninety-eight percent of cadets go to college and only three percent enter the military. As a result, JROTC gives students an opportunity to experience aspects of the military system prior to actually joining.
- JROTC is a successful physical education program where the cadets pass the ninth-grade fitness exam at a higher percentage rate than the general school population.
- The current JROTC program has a positive fiscal benefit to the school district. If the program were discontinued, not only would the schools have to hire additional physical education teachers, but they also would have to find additional facilities to accommodate new classes.
- If we lose the JROTC program, it would be difficult to get it back as there are many other communities nationwide waiting for such programs.
Arguments against Prop. V:
- Non-binding policy statements do not belong on the ballot. If passed by voters, Prop. V would not compel the school board to continue the program.
- The JROTC program is not run or controlled by the school district and therefore has no reason to continue. Unlike physical education instructors in the school district, JROTC instructors are not credentialed P.E. teachers (although they do have JROTC credentials).
- The JROTC program costs approximately $1 million for the school district. These funds could be better spent on other programs for students.
- There is a strong historical relationship between JROTC programs and entry into the military. The JROTC was originally was started to become a recruiting tool by the Pentagon. Yet, high school students are below the age requirement to enter the military full-time. Recruitment of underage students is a violation of international human rights laws.
- San Francisco has a long tradition of opposition to the expansion of military service and activities. We can continue this tradition by opposing the presence of the military in the City's schools and voting against Prop. V.
- Many children go into JROTC because they do not want to take physical education classes. As such, it provides the wrong motivation for students wanting to avoid school district developed P.E. curriculum.
SPUR does not often support policy statements that do not have a strong reason to be on the ballot. But in this case, we understand the restrictions on placing a binding ordinance before the voters that would reverse or compel the school board to take any particular action -- since only the school board itself can take such an action. We also recognize that San Francisco has a strong tradition of opposition to harmful military actions | locally and around the world. However, we do not conflate support for a successful JROTC leadership program with acceptance of harmful actions by the U.S. Military. Ultimately, we agree that this is a measure to give the voters an opportunity to make a statement about a program that offers choice to existing students.
SPUR recommends a "Yes" vote on Prop. V.