Trade bombs for teachers

By Mark Graham, December 10, 2010

A small but experienced Davis group has begun a grassroots campaign to trade bombs for teachers. Its goal: persuade Congress to re-allocate a percentage of the Department of Defense weapons budget back to the states to spend on hiring K12 teachers and other educators.

The campaign is called 25 Teachers' Salaries. Following are two statements that underlie our concerns:

1. Military spending is out of control. We don't even know how out of control it is. The Department of Defense produced financial statements throughout the 1990s that could not be audited due to 13 material weaknesses, wasting billions of dollars in the process.

Unknown to most Americans, Congress proceeded to give Defense a free pass. A law passed in December 2001 allows the department to opt out of its annual audit by the Office of Inspector General based on management's representation regarding the reliability of the financial statements.

As a result, the Defense financial statements have not been audited in the past nine years.

2. Education spending is being cut year after year in K12 public schools. This undermines the viability of public education in the United States and our national security, defined as the sum total of factors that contribute to happy communities, families and individuals.

Schools teach our children how to build healthy relationships and appreciate diversity. They also provide analytical tools that children can use throughout their lives.

A solution to the public school funding crisis seems to suggest itself from these facts, especially when you consider the following:

** In California, the average starting teacher's salary is $40,000 per year. Benefits add another 22 percent to the school district's cost.

** The Department of Defense buys many bombs and missiles that cost $1 million each or more.

** Each $1 million bomb costs the equivalent of 25 teachers' salaries.

What if we were to persuade Congress to cut some of those $1 million bombs from the more than $700 billion Department of Defense budget and send that money back to the states, earmarked for hiring teachers and other educators? While we're at it, how about dropping a couple of the new $113 million-plus F-35 fighter planes and redirecting that money, too? What if?

Besides the history of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement in the Department of Defense as noted by the Government Accountability Office (see, there are many reasons that military spending need not be anywhere near this high. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. Our greatest current threat - al-Qaida - has no army, no navy and no air force.

Here in Davis, generous parents and others last year donated $1.4 million to the school district through the Davis Schools Foundation. Yet the Davis school district still has a budget deficit for the current school year of $1.7 million to $3.7 million, depending on final state funding.

How does 25 Teachers' Salaries plan to solve this seemingly intractable problem? By building a statewide and then nationwide grassroots campaign.

We have written a resolution for the California Legislature that sets forth facts about military and education spending, with helpful citations that provide the opportunity for further research. We also have written a suggested bill for Congress - America's Weapons Rebate to Education Act. This act is 25 Teachers' Salaries suggested amendment to the fiscal year 2012 budget to shift funding from the military to the schools. The America's Weapons Rebate to Education Act makes it clear that the money must be spent on teachers' and other educators' salaries. The resolution asks Congress to pass the act.

We are not approaching Congress, at this point, to do anything. We believe Congress is unreachable on the subject of war and peace. We are working to persuade the California Legislature to pass the resolution by showing widespread local support. Individuals can sign our petition to the Legislature. Unlike Congress, the state legislatures actually must balance their budgets. They are very familiar with the consequences of cutting K-12 public school funding.

It won't cost the California Legislature a cent to pass this resolution. If successful, it will bring each state billions of dollars for education. The resolution is nonpartisan. For many, it is not even controversial.

When the California Legislature passes the resolution, the national media will take note. This publicity will inspire people in the other 49 states to start their own similar grassroots campaigns to gain the support of teachers' unions, school boards, PTAs, city councils, boards of supervisors, newspaper editors, peace groups, Chambers of Commerce and the American people for their legislatures to pass this resolution.

The force of this movement will get the attention of Congress to pass a bill that reflects the provisions of the America's Weapons Rebate to Education Act.

To quote English dramatist, novelist and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton, we believe 'The pen is mightier than the sword.' For the children, for the teachers, for the parents, for our nation's security and quality of life, we hope you will get out your pens today and show your support for the 25 Teachers' Salaries campaign.

- Members of 25 Teachers' Salaries include Mark Graham, Cathy Haskell, Hank Joerger, Richard Livingston, Karen Newton, Pam Nieberg, Ray Resler, Ken Wagstaff, Deborah Whitman and Warren Yeh.

Get more info

For the resolution, the America's Weapons Rebate to Education Act and an online petition to support the resolution, visit

Contact 25 Teachers' Salaries at