Federal Way School Board Looks at Costs of Expanded JROTC Program

Federal Way presently has two high schools that offer the Junior Air Force ROTC program. According to Major Barry Jones some states, like Idaho, are on a waiting list for Air Force Junior ROTC. The Marine Corps, Army and Navy also have ROTC programs.

At the School Board meeting on November 9, 2010, I suggested on behalf of myself and some other concerned citizens that we have other high schools that can benefit from the Junior ROTC program. According to my sources, there is a cost for the District of approximately $100,000.00 per year per school. This is based on $50,000.00 each for the two instructors needed at each school. The JROTC program is proven to motivate students to achieve academic excellence.

Federal Way School District received approximately $4.4 M in federal Education Jobs funding. This funding is available to support expenses over two fiscal years (2010-11 and 2011-12). The fact that the school district will be losing approximately $4.1 M in Federal Economic Stimulus funding next year (2011-12), had raised the issue of whether the District will save the funds to offset the drop in revenues expected next year. Additionally, the state has now withdrawn an additional amount from state funds available to Federal Way- in an amount that is approximately equal to and completely negates the federal funding!

It takes 2-3 years to apply and get a new ROTC detachment in place. The federal government provides a good part of the funds for a JROTC program (but not the salaries for the instructors). The proven successful track record of the Junior ROTC program in Federal Way makes the investment of local funds worth discussing.

At the January 25, 2011 School Board Meeting, the Board announced that it has decided not to proceed with JROTC at this time but will continye to assess the budget with a view toward adding JROTC program(s) at one or more additional high schools in the future.

The existing JROTC detachments within the FWPS are nationally recognized as the best in the U.S. The programs motivate students to obtain academic excellence because of the discipline, team building and mission that is associated with military culture. The benefits of such a military culture cross all racial, social and other cultural lines!

Charlie Hoff had a great deal of input into the process of instituting the JROTC program that presently exists in Federal Way and Todd Beamer High Schools. Fortunately, Federal Way does not seem to have the problem experienced in some other Western Washington school districts populated by folks that look at the military as a force that disturbs their Progressive status quo which apparently values education that is free of many important values but heavy on diversity and tolerance.

As a former Board Member who methodically researches educational issues, Hoff may well be the most knowledgeable guy in the room when it comes to education and has a wealth of recognized experience. He expresses himself politely and thoughtfully but he doesn’t seem to share a certain set of values shared by at least some members of the School Board.

Mr. Hoff’s passion for excellence in education elicits a certain amount of disdain from some of the best people in the community.

For example, Mr. Hoff maintains that despite the quantity of information showing that gadgetry provides no advantages in the classroom, we ignore inexpensive solutions (like JROTC and the Federal Way Public Academy) in anticipation of future levies to provide additional technical gadgetry in the classroom:

“Imagine if we designed the 21st-century American classroom to be a place where our kids could learn to think, calculate, and invent as well as the students in the top-performing countries around the world.

What would those spaces look like? Would students plug into mini-MRI machines to record the real-time development of their brains’ executive functions? Would teachers be Nobel Prize winners, broadcasting through screens installed in the foreheads of robots that don’t have tenure?

To find out, we don’t have to travel through time. We could just travel through space. At the moment, there are thousands of schools around the world that work better than our own. They don’t have many things in common. But they do seem to share a surprising aesthetic.

Classrooms in countries with the highest-performing students contain very little tech wizardry, generally speaking. They look, in fact, a lot like American ones-circa 1989 or 1959. Children sit at rows of desks, staring up at a teacher who stands in front of a well-worn chalkboard.”

From “What do the best classrooms in the world look like?”, by Amanda Ripley/Slate Magazine, Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hoff points out that, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Board (the equivalent of our state government’s school board for colleges and universities in the Evergreen State), the threat of diminishing employment opportunities in Washington State due to lack of educated workers is imminent. Many of our professionals in technical jobs come from other states and countries like India where employers are increasingly competing for workers. Without a pool of skilled workers, businesses with high paying jobs will locate in other states!

Are there enough students that will participate in additional JROTC detachments in Federal Way? Go to school board meetings. The more fundamental question is what it will take to get more busy parents motivated and involved. We will all soon be depending on today’s students to lead the way in matters of life and death.

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