Salas and Ma’s Pro-JROTC State bills failing

JROTC and Physical Education and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan

Salas and Ma’s Pro-JROTC  State Bill AB 351 is Going Down

by Marc Norton and Riva Enteen
June 4, 2009

Alert: On Tuesday, June 9, at 5:30 PM The SF School Board will hold a meeting where they vote on allowing students to take a phony “Independent Studies” option as a way of substituting JROTC for their Physical Education requirement.   This would not only sustain JROTC but seriously undermine efforts to promote fitness among youth, particularly working-class and minority youth. Location: 555 Franklin Street (betw. McAllister & Grove)

(Article continues.)  The last hope by supporters of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) to get a state exemption from physical education (PE) classes this year went down the tubes Tuesday, June 2. That was the day the only PE exemption bill still standing — AB 351, authored by Mary Salas (D-San Diego) and Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) — was pulled off the Assembly floor and returned to the Education Committee.

According to sources, the San Diego school board — the prime mover behind this bill — adamantly rejected any kind of state monitoring to insure that the required physical education curriculum would be provided for classes, including JROTC, which would exempt students from taking regular PE classes. In addition, again according to sources, the authors had promised Education Committee members that specific PE standards would be incorporated into the bill, but this promise was not kept.

The Education Committee has not scheduled any hearings on the bill, and no one expects any in the near future.

Earlier on Tuesday, the authors finally admitted that they couldn’t get the two-thirds majority required for an “urgency” bill, and amended the bill to remove the “urgency” clause. An “urgency” bill takes effect immediately upon final passage. Without this clause, the earliest AB 351 could go into effect would be January 1, 2010 — assuming that it ever gets back out of the Education Committee, gets passed by the Assembly and Senate, and signed by the Governor.

Now, even in the best-case scenario for JROTC supporters, all state physical education standards, including curriculum and credentialing requirements, will be in place when schools throughout the state start up again in the Fall. This presents a significant legal and political challenge to school districts still intent on exempting students in JROTC and other school programs from PE classes.

Two other state bills this year also could have led to exempting JROTC students from PE classes. AB 223, also authored by Fiona Ma, never made it out of the Appropriations Committee, and has now been abandoned by Ma. AB 554, authored by Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach), was amended to remove the original PE exemption, but in any event is also stuck in the Appropriations Committee.

Ironically, the attempt by JROTC supporters to get an exemption from state PE rules, and their failure to do so, has only served to shine a light on the partnership between certain school districts and the Pentagon. Many JROTC proponents claim that they only want to give students a “choice” to be part of the military program. But school districts that insist on allowing the military to use PE credit as bait for the program show, by their actions, that their real interest is in promoting JROTC. More than just giving youth a “choice,” they seek to funnel 14 and 15-year-old children, particular low-income youth and youth of color, into one of the military’s favorite and most successful recruiting programs.

This is particularly repugnant in this historical period, when the illegal war and occupation in Iraq is far from over, and the doomed-to-failure war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is ratcheting up. Just this week we have reached the sad milestone of 5,000 deaths of U.S. military service members in these two wars. Tens of thousands more U.S. soldiers have become living casualties of these wars, as have hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis and Pakistanis. No one knows where these wars will end, or at what cost to the world’s yearning for peace and justice.

In this context, PE credit for JROTC is not merely a bad idea. It is complicity in slaughter. Save lives – let AB 351 die.

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