- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

A public school district in California has unanimously approved a resolution condemning any U.S.-led war on Iraq and urged all schools to host a "public day of discussion" on the topic, which critics says would mostly take on an anti-war perspective.
All seven members of the San Francisco Unified School District said the war on Iraq would be morally wrong and could have a devastating impact on money that goes to schools and social services. With about 60,000 students, the school district is already facing a $22 million budget cut.
"Our unanimous vote sets our district strongly against the war on Iraq," said Eric Mar, school board vice president who co-authored the resolution, which was passed late last week. "The war will cost hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used instead to benefit our children and improve our schools."
But Mr. Mar yesterday denied that the board is trying to force its viewpoint on teachers or students by hosting a day of discussion on the war.
"The idea is for teachers to present a balanced point of view and get students thinking about the issue," Mr. Mar said. "That's what education is all about."
Critics called the school board's opposition to war on economic grounds "a masquerade" for how they really feel about the war.
"The money issue is just a blind," said Mike Antonucci, director of the California-based Education Intelligence Agency, a national education watchdog group. "It's never a case of 'we want to discuss this issue with our children.' It's always to get them to do something in order to spur further activism."
Mr. Antonucci said the same resolution has been passed by neighboring Oakland Unified School District, which last week held a similar teach-in that was dominated by speakers who opposed the war. Even teachers unions like the California Federation of Teachers, Oakland Education Association and the Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) in Wisconsin have passed the resolution since last fall.
"This is clearly an organized effort to get educators against the war," he said.
Even the district's PTA, which has 8,000 members, urged the school board to present both sides of the issue instead of promoting a political agenda.
"I know the intent is anti-war," PTA President Sherrie Rosenberg said. "I am against the war, but that doesn't matter. A good education means that children get to learn about all sides of an issue, not just one. That's how you teach kids to think."
Initially the San Francisco board's proposal included an endorsement of an anti-war rally and suggested teachers work with a number of anti-war organizations to develop lesson plans for every grade level for a day of public education on the war against Iraq.
Board members revised the wording by taking out the rally endorsement, making the list of anti-war groups an attachment of possible resources, and changing the target from kindergarten through 12th grade to "appropriate school levels." Both versions of the proposal allow students, teachers or staff to opt out of the program, which is scheduled to be held at the end of next month.
The resolution now reads: It is "essential that the people and students of San Francisco be well-informed of the root causes of war and the consequences of military action by their government including the potential loss of billions of dollars of support for our schools and social services in a time of dire need."
Mr. Mar said yesterday the changes were necessary "to make it clear that we're not prescribing any particular point of view" even if he and the majority of the board members do not support a war against Iraq.
But the organizations listed in the attachment still take an anti-war position.
For example, one group, Racial Justice 911, says on its Web site: "For us, war includes a wide range of international acts of aggression: economic sanctions, debt, and environmental destruction. It also refers to the low-intensity warfare against people of color communities within the United States."


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