Education Letter to the Editor

Ed. Dept. Pick Is Selectively Opposed to Big Government

November 28, 2017 1 min read

To the Editor:

I appreciated the profile of retired U.S. Army brigadier general and former South Carolina schools superintendent Mick Zais (“A Polarizing Pick for Education Department’s No. 2 Slot,” Nov. 1, 2017). But does Zais actually believe in a “smaller footprint for the federal government” in K-12 education, as the article suggests?

According to a recent study by the RAND Corporation, South Carolina public high schools have the highest concentration of U.S. Department of Defense-sponsored programming in the nation. Sixty-two percent of the state’s public high schools offer the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, whose national footprint requires roughly $370 million in federal funding every year.

Teachers in the training corps are retired military officers, and the defense department subsidizes their salaries, the cost of textbooks, uniforms, and other expenses. General guidelines for training corps are overseen by the federal government. And the content of the program’s “military science” curriculum is controlled not by states and school districts, but by individual military branches.

Who is benefiting? In messages to Congress, defense chiefs often tout the program’s recruitment benefits. Research shows that around 40 percent of students who spend three years or more in the training corps eventually end up in some form of military service after high school.

So, maybe it’s more accurate to say that Zais is opposed to no-strings-attached funding from the federal government—unless it happens to benefit his former employers in the Pentagon.

Seth Kershner

Sandisfield, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 2017 edition of Education Week as Ed. Dept. Pick Is Selectively Opposed to Big Government