Thursday, January 15, 2009

if the army had to hold a bakesale

I was thinking of a protest slogan from the Vietnam War era, "Wouldn't it be great if our schools had all the money they needed and the military had to hold a bakesale to buy a bomber?" when I attended the school board meeting this week. 

Special Education parents had rallied to discuss the many items on the list of budget reductions that included firing nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, classroom aides,  and others.  

The JROTC program was also on the reductions list-- to reduce the army officer teachers to two, and combine the 100 students into two classes. (That may sound like a lot of students per teacher, but most high school teachers-- math, English, science, history etc-- see over 120 students daily.) The JROTC staff had really helped the students to organize and prepare for the meeting, bringing in community members, family and students to speak very passionately in favor of the program.  They had speakers address the board for nearly an hour. 

Somehow in all of this, the special education parents who came to speak were shuffled to the end of the meeting and their time was cut from three minutes each to one minute each.  It seemed like an accidental oversight or mistake, but it really felt that we, that our children, mattered less. It did not help that Mr. Eberhardt, the board president, told every special ed speaker to "wrap it up." 

One of the JROTC staff said, "We are not here to recruit your children... this is a leadership program. We could have used the McDonald's model. But we used the Army model." Yes, but if the program did use the McDonald's model, the Army wouldn't  pay for it. Why? Uh, well, it is a recruitment program.  

Why is this a special education topic? 

The Army funds the JROTC at 50%. The federal government does not fund IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities in Special Education Act) to even the mandated 40% level that Congress wrote into the law. 

For this posting I am putting aside all of my rants about the Army reducing its own IQ standard to increase recruiting for the current wars, the ACLUs public position that U.S. military recruiting practices among minors violates international laws,  and my convictions that Kurt Hahn and James Williams were right, there is a moral equivalent to war;  all my reasons for thinking the military does not belong in schools at all. 

For this post, my question is: given the sheer size of the military budget, and the drastic state of educational funding, should the army kick in the other fifty percent for JROTC? Why is our district paying for a military recruitment program at all? If the program is that valuable to to the army, then let them fund it. 

Or at least they could help the special education department hold a bake sale. They do a lot of community service, and what a great photo op for the army's new humanitarian image to have those handsome, uniformed cadets helping my daughter in her wheelchair as she tries to sell cupcakes outside the district office! 

I've noticed the army still has not had to hold their own bakesale. 

Is there a moral equivalent to war? It just might be funding IDEA, maybe even 50%.