No Military Recruiters in Public Schools, Scholarships for Education and Job Training

views updated

No Military Recruiters in Public Schools, Scholarships for Education and Job Training


By: Todd Chretien

Date: 2005

Source: City and County of San Francisco Department of Elections. "No Military Recruiters in Public Schools, Scholarships for Education and Job Training." 2005. < id=33918> (accessed May 29, 2006).

About the Author: In May 2006 Todd Chretien was the Green Party candidate for the United States Senate in the state of California. He worked as part of the group College Not Combat and authored Proposition 1.


The 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act improved education standards and accountability for school systems throughout the United States. Section 9528, one of its lesser-known provisions, however, requires that "each local educational agency receiving assistance under this Act shall provide, on a request made by military recruiters or an institution of higher education, access to secondary school students names, addresses, and telephone listings." According to the law, parents of students must "opt out" if they wish to restrict military recruiters' access to their children's names, addresses, and telephone numbers. In addition, any school—public or private—that receives federal funding but refuses to comply with the provision can face the loss of federal funds. Because the United States does not have compulsory national service requirements; the dissemination of personal information was not, in the eyes of some parents, students, and activists, a justifiable transfer of data.

The provision escaped the attention of many secondary school administrators initially, but by 2002 a steady stream of media stories emerged as parents learned that their child's school district was providing the required information to military recruiters. Students in schools from Vermont to Utah complained that the act was an encroachment on personal rights; parents organized opt-out information campaigns, and criticized schools districts for failing to notify parents of the NCLB policy.

At the same time, some schools pointed to conflicts between the armed forces' "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy concerning homosexuals in the military and school policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Such clashes between military recruitment programs on college campuses such as Yale University led to the 2005 court case Burt v. Rumsfeld, in which the U.S. District Court held that Yale could continue to bar military recruiters from employment fairs, though the U.S. Department of Justice is pursuing the case on appeal.

As enrollment in the all-volunteer army and reserve units in the United States declined during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military recruiters became more thorough in their approach and the government used appeals to gain access to students in high schools. The city of San Francisco put the question of military access to students to voters on November 8, 2005 in the form of Proposition 1.


Proposition I

Shall it be City policy to oppose military recruiting in public schools and consider funding scholarships for education and training that could provide an alternative to military service?

by the Ballot Simplification Committee

THE WAY IT IS NOW: The San Francisco Unified School District operates the City's public schools. The District receives federal money to pay part of its operating costs. By accepting federal money, the District must permit U.S. military recruiters access to its schools. Colleges and universities that receive federal funds are subject to similar requirements.

THE PROPOSAL: Proposition I is a declaration of policy that the people of San Francisco oppose the federal government's use of public schools to recruit students for service in the military.

Proposition I is also a declaration that San Francisco should consider funding scholarships for higher education and job training that could provide an alternative to military service.

A "YES" VOTE MEANS: If you vote "yes," you want it to be City policy to oppose military recruiters' access to public schools and to consider funding scholarships for education and training that could provide an alternative to military service.

A "NO" VOTE MEANS: If you vote "no," you do not want this to be City policy.


San Francisco voters approved Proposition 1, also known as "College Not Combat," by a 59% to 41% vote. Reaction to the vote ranged from elation on the part of anti-recruiter groups such as College Not Combat and Campus Anti-war Network to anger from commentator Bill O'Reilly, who responded to news of the vote by telling citizens in San Francisco: "You want to be your own country? Go right ahead. And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it."

The group behind the push for Proposition 1, College Not Combat, called for city and county officials to create viable alternatives to military service in the form of greater job opportunities and scholarships for those targeted by military recruiters; the proposition did not call upon the city or county to act in violation of the Solomon Amendment or the No Child Left Behind Act.

The 59% win for antimilitary recruitment activists (often referred to as "counter-recruiters,") reflected the growing anti-war movement as American deaths in the Iraq War exceeded 2,000. Critics derided the measure as a symbol of San Francisco's fringe status as a highly liberal, progressive city, while supporters argued that the measure demonstrated that a major American city did not support Section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act or any military recruitment in higher education.

In December 2005 the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in Rumsfeld v. FAIR, which tests the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment; the Solomon Amendment requires colleges and universities to permit military recruiters to engage in the same activities as other potential employers in campus recruitment drives, or the institution faces the loss of federal funds. As of this writing, the Supreme Court had not issued a decision.



Trotter, Andrew. "Justices Weigh Colleges' Right to Limit Military Recruiters." Education Week. 25, no. 14 (December 2005): 22.

Web sites

USA Today. "'Counter-recruiters' Shadowing the Military." March 7, 2005. <> (accessed May 29, 2006).

United States Department of Education. "Joint Letter from Secretary Paige and Secretary Rumsfeld." October 9, 2002. <> (accessed May 29, 2006).