RICHMOND -- West Contra Costa school board members were on the receiving end Wednesday evening of a delayed reaction to an approval in February to spend $100,000 annually on a Junior ROTC program at De Anza High School.

And the reaction -- mostly from antiwar activists and military skeptics -- was anything but supportive.

About 15 speakers, backed by a larger group in the audience, skewered the idea that was proposed by De Anza Principal Bob Evans and endorsed by the board at its Feb. 12 meeting.

Board President Charles Ramsey, apparently impressed by the speakers' concerns, said the board will revisit the issue at its June 11 meeting.

Ramsey suggested in February that a De Anza JROTC unit be a pilot program for other high schools in the district.

"They have hired a teacher and have a waiting list for the program," he said Thursday.

Evans was not in attendance Wednesday night, but Ramsey said he would be present on June 11.

Kensington resident Betty Brown, who led the opposition, said the first she heard about it was in a news story she read two days after the Feb. 12 meeting.

Brown said the West Contra Costa school board rejected a plan in the 1980s to start a JROTC program at Richmond High School and voted to limit the presence of military recruiters and personnel on district campuses to career days and as presenters in school-sponsored debates.


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The proposed De Anza program would be under the auspices of the U.S. Air Force and be taught by military veterans. Students would be excused from certain regular classes, such as physical education, to make time for the ROTC instruction.

The district would pay $100,000 a year for the program for three years, with the possibility for federal funding after that if it is successful.

In a presentation to the board, Brown called JROTC "a military recruitment mechanism" and said that 40 percent of high school students nationwide who enroll in JROTC go on to enlist in the military after graduation.

"The program will be under the wing of the Air Force, which is switching from training airplane pilots to training drone pilots," said Brown, a co-chairwoman of an East Bay Peace Action chapter.

"This program would be incompatible with (the positions) of other elected officials in our community and past school boards."

Others speakers questioned the investment in a program with ties to the military when many other school programs have been cut.

Evans said in February that the district money would go to pay instructors and provide uniforms, using the school's existing classrooms for instruction and athletic fields for drills.

"Where are the funds for art, music and drama and (paying for) students to take advanced placement exams?" said former school board member Antonio Medrano. "Will these folks teaching the courses have credentials? Reconsider."

Later in the evening, district Finance Director Sheri Gamba gave a financial update in advance of state and district budgets for 2014-15 that are due in June.

Gamba said state tax revenue is rising and the district can continue to expect to benefit from Prop. 30 and the Local Control Funding Formula, which channels more money to districts with high percentages of students from low-income families.

However, there are concerns about a plan from Gov. Jerry Brown, announced this month, to have school districts shoulder the lion's share of a bailout of the State Teachers Retirement System over seven years.

Under the governor's plan, the district's teacher retirement contribution would rise from 8.25 percent of teacher salaries, or $9.78 million, in 2014-15 to 19.1 percent, or $22.63 million, in 2020-21 to return the retirement system to financial solvency.

Gamba said increases in STRS and other retirement costs will eat up 34 percent of the higher base funding for the district under the Local Control Funding Formula by the 2016-17 school year if Brown's plan is adopted by the state Legislature.