Capuano stands firm on recruitment

November 6, 2009
By

David Taber

In a hotly contested race for the senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy, Congressman Mike Capuano and his three competitors have attempted to stake out positions for themselves as the late senator’s progressive ideological heir.

But in the congressman’s case, that does not mean he has backed down from his position on military recruitment in high schools. In 2007, the Gazette reported that Jamaica Plain activists opposing military recruitment in high schools had unsuccessfully lobbied Capuano, asking him to support measures that would have restricted recruiters accesses to high school students’ personal information.

In a recent e-mail to the Gazette, one of those activists asked if the congressman’s position had changed, and what Kennedy’s position had been.

At issue in 2007 was a provision in the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act—passed in 2002—allows military recruiters access to high school students’ personal information including their addresses and telephone listings unless parents fill out “opt out” forms.

Despite lobbying from JP, Capuano was the only member of the state’s congressional delegation not to co-sponsor the Student Privacy Protection Act of 2007—a bill that sought to revoke the policy.

And he remains steadfast on the issue. “The Congressman believes that service to the United States military in any capacity is a high calling. As such, he continues to support military recruiters’ access to high school students provided that each family maintains the right to opt out,” Capuano staffer John Lenicheck told the Gazette in a recent e-mail.

That is about the same as what Capuano told the Gazette in 2007. Allowing the military full access to high school students insures that it will be an option “not just among kids who have no other choice…The military in a perfect world would be educated, diverse and populated by people who want to be in it,” he said at the time.

Kennedy was the chief Senate sponsor of the NCLB, but some suggest that he was unaware that opt-out language had been added to the bill before it came to a vote.

In a recent interview on the National Public Radio show “On The Media,” David Goodman, who reports on military recruitment issues for Mother Jones magazine, said, “…[U]nbeknownst to most people, including its sponsors, because I spoke to people in the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s office about this, [the NCLB act includes] a provision that requires all high schools to turn over directory information to the military on all juniors and seniors.”

A Boston Globe article from 2002 tells a somewhat different story, saying Kennedy “fought successfully for several years to keep the military recruitment rules out of education bills, but couldn’t win the battle this year, especially since bigger education issues were dominating the debate.”

Staffers in interim Sen. Paul Kirk’s office, many of whom stayed on after Kirk was named as Kennedy’s interim successor, did not return Gazette phone calls for this article.