In the previous issue of Rethinking Schools we called for a reappraisal of the federal military budget and noted its effect on the Milwaukee Public Schools. Today, with a serious classroom shortage in Milwaukee, a federal budget deficit spinning out of control, and costly-aircraft carriers and airplanes self-destructing on what seems like a weekly basis, we must raise our voices as informed citizens.
The fact that our nation spends $300 billion on the military budget is a social obscenity. Our urban centers are in a process of decay, starvation and po_verty stalk. much of our planet, the ocean and earth have become toxic waste dumps and yet our taxes, technology, research efforts, and productive capabilities are being used to forge increasingly sophisticated weapons of destruction.
We must demand that our public officials draw the connections between the underfunding of programs to address education, housing, employment, drug-addiction, and other social issues, and the over-funding of wasteful military programs.
The history of this country has shown that most essential reforms are not achieved by waiting for Washington to act. Local citizens like ourselves advocated the elimination of child labor, demon strated for the right of women to vote, engaged fo direct action to end racial seg regation, and lobbied for equal educational opportunity for the disabled. Such movements started small and were given little chance to succeed. They did succeed, however, thanks to the commitment and courage of millions of Americans.
The moment is right for a new movement to shift our nation’s priorities away from militarism and towards education and other social needs.
Given the priority Milwaukee has placed on improving education, we think it would be appropriate for leading citizens and organizations of our city to call together concerned citizens, from around the country to focus attention on the need to redirect our national priorities. If we start now, there is no reason why a national convocation cannot be held here by the end of 1990.
We suggest that local elected officials, community associations, PTA’s, students councils, Jobs With Peace, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, the Wisconsin Education Association, the Wisconsin Federation of Teachers, the Rainbow Coalition, Milwaukee Area Technical College and others commence this process with a local meeting .this fall to discuss how we can pare down the huge military budget and devote more resources to meet fog educational and other human needs.
Someone once said that the needs of education would never be solved in this country until the military had to hold bake sales to build bombers. We agree, and hope that Mayor Norquist, County Executive Schulz, Superintendent Peterkin, Congresspersons Moody and Kleczka, and Senator Kohl (who ran on a promise to cut 10% from military spending) will join us and others in leading the nationwide struggle to reorder our nation’s priorities.