They spend billions of dollars in war and can’t spend a dollar on a child

Testimony given by Nancy Carroll to Philadelphia School Reform Commission, April 16, 2003

I am a grandmother who has been raising six grandchildren and one great-grandchild since the death of my daughter eight years ago.  I have a granddaughter who attends Germantown High School, where a military academy already exists.  I am here today to say that I am opposed to Paul Vallas’ proposal to expand the JROTC and military programs to more of our public high schools, and that I think these programs should be removed from Germantown High School and every other school where they already exist.  

I am outraged that my granddaughter received a call on her cell phone from an Army recruiter – which I am sure is connected to the strong military presence in her school.  I want my granddaughter to be encouraged to pursue higher education and to have many options open to her – and don’t want anyone steering her towards the military.  Military recruiters should not be working through our children’s schools.

I also speak on behalf of the Every Mother is a Working Mother (EMWM) Network.  The EMWM Network is a national multi-racial grassroots network of welfare and other mothers, grandmothers, carers from different backgrounds and situations.  We are pressing for the value of the work of mothers and other carers to be reflected in welfare benefits and for welfare and other resources for the care of people and not for war.  To us, the military budget is money we are rightly owed for the hard work mothers and grandmothers do of raising all the workers in this country.

I’m tired of seeing the military budget growing while mothers and grandmothers like myself work ourselves to the bone just to barely make ends meet - and our children and grandchildren are suffering as a result.  After-school programs are cut and there are fewer resources in our communities, fewer scholarships available for our children to pursue a college education.  JROTC – and the military recruiters – promise a lot.  But do they follow-through on those promises?   What they don’t say is that the JROTC curriculum is questionable, the teachers not qualified and the courses don’t count towards entrance requirements at many colleges and universities.  It encourages our young people to obey orders, not think for themselves.  

The recruiters don’t warn our daughters and granddaughters of the high risk of rape or sexual assault for women in the military. Can Paul Vallas and the School Reform Commission ensure the safety of young women in JROTC?   As mothers and grandmothers we question the kind of “leadership development” and “character-building” – for our sons as well as our daughters – that is claimed by these programs that apparently foster a climate which results in such violence against women and girls.  But most importantly, although young people join the military for many reasons besides fighting in a war, ultimately, this is a career “choice” which puts them at risk of being killed and killing other young people like themselves, for questionable reasons.  

As mothers and grandmothers we don’t want to see the children we have poured our lives into and lovingly raised targeted for military service – we don’t want them trained to be killers of some other mother’s child.  We don’t think the lives of the youth in poor and communities of color are worth less than the lives of others!

Many of the young boys around my way talk about getting into the Job Corps because they have gotten kicked out of school.  And if they are old enough and didn’t have a criminal record they went and served in the military.  We don’t want to see our children and grandchildren in prison and we don’t want them in the military.  As it is we already see recruiters swarming the schools and neighborhoods in the Black, Latino and poor communities, knowing how few options our youth have.  40% of the US Army is Black and 60% of the US Marines are Latino.  One in 12 young Black men are in prison.  Should these be the only choices?  

We refuse this plan for our children and we say no to the military in our school.  We demand that those resources go instead towards every school having the resources necessary to give our children some better options for their future.

They spend billions of dollars in war and can’t spend a dollar on a child.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.  The government thinks more about killing than they do of healing, and we have had enough.

Every Mother is a Working Mother Network can be contacted at:
Box 11795  Phila PA 19101  Tel: 215-848-1120; Fax: 215-848-1130  Email:

   refusing to kill