Fiona Ma for State Assembly
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JROTC Gains Support From New Board of Education

A controversial high school military program could be brought back to San Francisco public schools by fall, the result of new membership on The City’s Board of Education.

The national Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or JROTC, program had a 90-year history within the San Francisco Unified School District until the school board voted in 2006 to eliminate it.

JROTC was to be phased out two years from then — which would have been this June — while district officials worked to create a replacement leadership program. To date, another program has not been selected.

If passed, the resolution introduced by school board members Rachel Norton and Jill Wynns would ensure that JROTC continues to be offered.

“The school board needs to take action,” said Norton, who was elected to the board in November. “It’s a very emotional issue, but it’s a worthwhile program.”

Opponents say JROTC’s connection to the military’s violence and discriminatory policy against gays and lesbians has no place in San Francisco public schools.

Supporters, however, have said the program offers beneficial  leadership and community-
service skills.

The resolution appears to have the four votes needed to pass.

Veteran school board member Norman Yee, along with Hydra Mendoza — who also serves as Mayor Gavin Newsom’s education adviser — told The Examiner they would join Norton and Wynns in supporting the continuation of JROTC.

Commissioners Sandra Fewer, Jane Kim and Kim-Shree Maufas said they do not support overturning the previous decision.

“If I went back and tried to overturn every ruling I didn’t care for, that’s all I’d be doing,” Maufas said.

Fewer, who is also new to the board, said the program could be costly at a time when the district faces a budget shortfall.

Roughly 1,600 students were enrolled in JROTC when the board voted in 2006; participation has dwindled to 500 this year, according to district officials.

Enrollment has declined in part because the board voted in June to discontinue giving physical-education credit to those who participate in JROTC. Two commissioners that supported ending the P.E. credit — Mark Sanchez and Eric Mar — are no longer on the school board.

State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, however, introduced state legislation in February that would allow JROTC participants to fulfill their P.E. requirement for graduation. AB 223 is being heard by the Education Committee, according to Ma’s office.

Yee said although he supported ending the P.E. credit for JROTC, his vote was due to legal concerns.