- Ken Larsen,
Friends Committee on Legislation of Calif.
Most Californians probably donít know that our state has an agency
called the "Military Department" and that it is slated for a 58%
budget increase in these times of peace and prosperity. Traditionally,
the Military Departmentís job has been to manage the California
Army and Air National Guard, the stateís reserve forces for times
of war, insurrection and disaster.
But Governor Gray Davis has come up with a new mission for the
stateís military. He wants the National Guard not only to prepare
for catastrophe, but also to take over the education of difficult
The governorís 2000-2001 fiscal year budget asks the legislature
to approve $10.5 million in funding for two new paramilitary training
institutions. Both the Turning Point Academy and the Oakland Military
Academy set dangerous and wasteful policy precedents.
Big boot camp budget
The Turning Point Academy, a 12-month residential military boot
camp for "zero tolerance" juvenile offenders ages 15-17, would
be established at the Guardís Camp San Luis Obispo. At an initial
annual cost to the stateís general fund of $9.2 million, the program
would hire 84 personnel to support 160 "cadets."
In other words the National Guard, which lacks a proven track
record in working with serious juvenile offenders, would be handed
resources that most California educators couldnít imagine in their
wildest dreams: one staff member for every two students and a
budget of $57,500 for each pupil under their charge. Thatís an
extravagant amount to pay for an untested program, especially
when the state is otherwise starving its schools with per-pupil
spending thatís among the lowest in the nation.
In addition to a lavish budget, the governor also is pushing
military boot camps as part of legislation to take discretion
away from judges. Under SB 1937 (Adam Schiff, D-Los Angeles),
a trailer bill sponsored by the administration, judges would be
limited to two choices when sentencing "zero tolerance" offenders:
the California Youth Authority or the Guardís military boot camp.
Options that would place troubled young people in less brutal
environments, where they might be indoctrinated into the ways
of peace rather than the culture of prison and war, will be ruled
out if SB 1937 passes.
The other major new military education initiative originates
with two unlikely sponsors: the office of Jerry Brown, Mayor of
Oakland, and the Oakland Unified School District, whose board
is made up of members much more liberal than their counterparts
in most of the state. Striving to serve "low-achievers from a
disadvantaged background" in grades 7-12, the Oakland Military
Academy would spend $1.3 million in its first year (2000-2001)
to hire 17 personnel to serve 162 students in a nonresidential
military charter school. Its five-year plan anticipates a huge
increase in enrollments, with an anticipated 972 "cadets" in the
2006-07 school year.
Uniforms, math and mentoring
Three other programs that mix the military with education are
already on the books but are seeking unprecedented amounts of
state funding. The oldest of these is the California Cadet Corps,
a school-based elective program, that is slated for $1.5 million
in state dollars "to provide uniforms and an enriched curriculum
for the 6500 cadets at 61 participating schools," according to
a state senate budget committee report. For almost ten years,
the Corps has been funded by local school districts.
Another is the California Starbase Program, a fifth-grade math
and science program, that is currently supported with $237,000
in federal funds. The governorís proposal for $92,000 to fund
one Starbase position represents the first time state funds will
be used for this program. [Editorís note: Starbase is a national
youth outreach program of the military.]
Lastly, the Davis budget allocates $550,000 and eight positions
for the "Youth ChalleNGe Program (Grizzly Youth Academy)." This
federally-initiated residential and mentoring program for high
school drop outs requires a 25% state match in the first year
followed by a five percent increase for three succeeding years,
until state support reaches a minimum of $1.12 million.
Legislative staff skeptical
The legislatureís nonpartisan analyst, Elizabeth Hill, and the
staff of the State Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee have
already generated serious doubts about further intrusion of the
military into Californiaís education system. In a review of what
it describes as "a substantial expansion in General Fund commitment
to National Guard youth programs," the committee staff raises
several policy questions:
The Legislative Analyst goes even further, pointing out that
juvenile boot camps have been found to be ineffective and that
the Military Departmentís proposals "lack key design components
important to any juvenile offender rehabilitation program." Furthermore,
the LAO points out that thereís no reason why these initiatives
canít use existing funding sources, such as Proposition 98 dollars,
instead of dipping into the stateís General Fund, which is needed
to pay for food, health care, shelter, and, in some cases, subsistence
for disabled and economically marginal and impoverished Californians
left out of the stateís prosperity.
What you can do
Because it seldom makes the evening news, most Californians have
no idea that the reach of the military extends right down from
the federal government through the state and into our local schools
and universities. Last year, the military and their legislative
allies tried to take high school diplomas and college jobs away
from young men who fail to register with the Selective Service
System. Fortunately, FCL and anti-draft groups were able to nip
these proposals in the bud.
This year, the battleground has expanded to the governorís budget.
It will take persistent long-term pressure to bring an end to
the militaryís efforts to use our schools as a base for the imposition
of military values on our students.
Write to the governor and your state legislators to let them
know how you feel about the plans outlined in this article. Remind
them of the compelling arguments set forth by their own legislative
Ask them to redirect their efforts from militarization schemes
that wonít work to the more soundly-based programs described in
the "Inventory of California Violence Prevention Programs" published
by the FCL Education Fund. Contact the FCL office to request a
copy of the inventory ($5 donation requested).
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org).
It originally appeared in the FCL Newsletter, April 2000, and
was reprinted with the permission of the Friends Committee on
Legislation: 926 J Street, Room 707, Sacramento, CA 95814, firstname.lastname@example.org.