PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Three out of four young people in America are not fit for military service and it’s worse in the city of Pittsburgh.
“Eighty to 90 percent of the recruitable age population are unable to serve here in the city,” says Steve Doster of Mission: Readiness.
That’s the conclusion of a mission readiness report, sponsored by 200 retired generals and admirals.
“As a consequence of poor physical condition, no high school diploma, felony or serious misdemeanor conviction, we have a national security problem,” warns retired Maj. Gen. John Stevens of the U.S. Army.
The study found that 55 percent of city students do not graduate on time compared to 31 percent nationwide and more city young people have rap sheets.
“More so here in Pittsburgh we have a lot of law violations, not too many medical issues,” says Sgt. Oscar Weaver, a recruiter for the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
Military leaders say the key to making more young people military eligible is early childhood programs, including some Governor Tom Corbett wants to eliminate, like the Accountability Block Grant used to fund kindergarten and pre-kindergarten programs.
“We would like to see whatever resources we do have focus where it will do the most good and that’s in early childhood development and education,” notes retired Lt. Gen. Dennis Benchoff of the U.S. Army.
And this is the message to Harrisburg.
“We hope that they will restore those programs that are evidence-based, that we know work on behalf of children, that produce the kind of productive adults that we need in our society,” says Martha Isler of the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.
As military leaders indicate, this is matter of national security. Now the House Republican majority in Harrisburg want to restore about $100 million to the Accountability Block Grant that Corbett has zeroed.
But that still leaves $150 million that school districts across Pennsylvania will have to cut in early childhood development programs in the coming school year.