Ma wants to re-instate ROTC in schools

April 1, 2009 6:41:39 PM PDT
State lawmakers voted on a bill on Wednesday that would require San Francisco to keep a controversial school program the district plans to phase out. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma wants Junior ROTC back in schools.

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Seven San Francisco public schools offer the Junior ROTC program, but it's in the process of being cancelled. About 500 students are currently enrolled -- down from more than 1,000 last year.

Now, Assemblywoman Ma wants the state to force the school district to keep the program going.

Junior ROTC cadets travelled from San Francisco to the State Capitol, hoping to persuade lawmakers to keep the program marching forward in city schools.

"These kids are a product of Junior ROTC. They are a successful model of what the program is and what it stands for," said bill author Assemblywoman Fiona Ma.

But critics say what it stands for is the military. In November 2006, a deeply divided school board voted 4-3 to kill the program.

Eric Mar is now a city supervisor who served on the School Board and was part of the majority vote in 2006. He thinks it's out of line for the state to try to override that decision.

"It takes away local control from the local school district to determine its academics and programs. It would set a precedent. I'm not sure that's legally defensible," said Mar.

"Health, welfare, well being of our kids belongs to the state and that's why we have jurisdiction overall school matters," said Ma.

JROTC is scheduled to end in June -- even now students no longer receive P.E. credit like they used to. Last November, San Francisco voters approved a measure supporting ROTC in the public schools, but it was non-binding.

Now School Board member Jill Wynns has introduced a new measure to fully reinstate the program, which has existed for 90 years.

"I've been a long-term supporter which is a difficult position personally being a progressive and anti-military for the most part," said Wynns.

Wynn's measure now faces three committee hearings. The earliest it could come up for a vote is April 26th.

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