More than half of the San Francisco Unified School District’s students are Asian American. Many of these students are high achievers and come from homes where academic achievement is highly valued and supported. This support is a crucial element in the academic performance of these students—research shows that family support is one of the most important factors linked to high academic achievement.
The School District has developed committees and support that help Asian American families to participate in their children’s schools. These include the Parents Advisory Council, whose creation I wrote, where Cantonese-speaking parents participate fully, with translation provided, in representing the concerns of Asian American families. We also have a translation unit at the district level and translation services available to schools sites and training for parents to learn how to be part of the decision-making process at their children’s schools.
Our school district has been the highest-achieving urban district in California for the last seven years, and Asian Americans play a big part in that record. But this success takes a lot of hard work on the part of teachers, administrators, staff and especially the students themselves.
Some students, even Asian Americans, struggle to succeed in school under difficult circumstances. They need more opportunities to keep them engaged in school, to make sure they have meaningful experiences that enrich their lives and make their academic success possible. We often hear students tell us that it is co-curricular and special programs that help them to feel that they belong and inspire them to go to school and work hard.
One of the most universally positive is the Junior Reserve Officers Training Program in seven SFUSD high schools. In my sixteen years on the School Board, I have never heard a cadet in this program testify to anything but the positive impact on his or her life. Criticism only comes from those who do not participate in the program, and they criticize not JROTC in SFUSD but the military in general.
It is therefore disappointing that the Board of Education has been attacking the JROTC program in San Francisco’s public high schools for years, eroding support for this program that has served hundreds of thousands of SFUSD students for over ninety years.
This year the Board voted in a hastily called meeting, when students could not fully participate and after school was out for the summer and the fall schedules were set, to deny physical education credit for JROTC. This caused very difficult problems for schools and students as they returned to school and had to shuffle hundreds of students’ schedules, hire teachers at the last minute and throw schools into chaos. This also cost the School District hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been used for other important purposes.
The majority of JROTC cadets are Asian Americans; half are girls. This undermining of the program is at best insensitive to the cultural realities of Asian American concerns. Sadly, this is being led by a School Board that has a majority of Asian American members.
Ideologically driven decisions that do not seriously consider the impact on students endanger the future of Asian American students. Take this into consideration when you vote for school board on November 4. Many candidates are hedging their positions on JROTC. They support the program when they speak to some organizations and are against it at others.
We need School Board Commissioners who will make difficult decisions when they need to be made for the good of students. Politics that are not about education should not be driving our educational decisions and should not be polarizing the School Board election. I am proud to be a faithful supporter of JROTC, even when it is politically difficult.
Prop V on the November ballot is a policy statement that will urge the School Board to restore JROTC in SFUSD. It deserves your support. Thousands of community members are involved in supporting this program because they know it is good for all of our students.
Jill Wynns is a four-term incumbent on the San Francisco School Board who is running for re-election in November.