Learning for Life first came to Florida in September 2000, with the state Department of Education being the conduit of public money paid to any of the 67 school districts that apply for the grant money.
At one of the three separate school districts within BSA's South Florida Council – the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system – the program launched during the 2003-2004 school year at a modest public cost of $158,000 in 21 schools. It peaked at M-DCPS in 2007-2008, when the district paid Learning for Life $475,000 in taxpayer funds to supply program materials in 51 elementary, middle and high schools.
In all, M-DCPS has paid Learning for Life exactly $3,142,660 in public money through the current school year. And that's at just one of the three countywide school districts the BSA includes in its South Florida Council area.
Why is an examination of this cruel hypocrisy – the BSA's harsh repudiation of gays in its traditional program, its mercenary embrace of gays to maximize income from its own Learning for Life company – relevant at this time?
Boy Scout volunteers and professional staffers from throughout the country are now meeting near Dallas for their 2013 national annual meeting. At the pinnacle of their agenda is whether to amend the BSA's historic and thoroughly repugnant policy of discrimination against a certain set of Americans who wish to join and participate in the BSA's otherwise laudable programs.
That policy is abhorrent and un-American. Every other major youth-serving organization in the country long ago found a way for sexual orientation not to be a membership or volunteer issue at all. We are an inclusive nation. The Boy Scouts of America is out of step with our nation. That is entirely wrong, and it must end at once.
If the BSA fails to repudiate, totally, its discriminatory policy on Thursday, then public school districts should directly repudiate the BSA itself. Hurt the BSA where it counts, in its wallet. End "kids for cash." Cancel Learning for Life, everywhere.
There's certain to be a Learning for Life display at the BSA national meeting inside the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center this week. Just don't expect it to include a copy of its gays-embracing Position Statement. Even though there ought to be a large one, front and center. For the BSA to see.
Eston “Dusty” Melton, an Eagle Scout since 1969, lives in Coconut Grove. In 1993 he received South Florida Council’s Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor for local volunteer service. In 1998 he received the Silver Antelope Award, the highest honor for regional service, at the BSA’s national annual meeting in San Antonio. In 2000 he was among the highest-serving BSA volunteers to resign all of his governance positions, in protest of the organization’s U.S. Supreme Court victory affirming its legal right to discriminate against homosexuals.