The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) is a program offered at over 3200 high schools nationwide, affecting over half a million students. (Some middle schools have similar cadet programs, but they are not actual JROTC units.) The course is marketed as a way for students to learn discipline, leadership and physical training. Students march and learn military history and behavior. In addition, at most schools students have the option of marksmanship trainning, in which they learning to shoot guns by practicing with air rifles.
School districts must sign a contract that requires an instructor team consisting of a retired commission officer and a non-commissioned officer for the first 150 students enrolled. Another retired officer must be hired for each additional 100 students. JROTC instructors sometimes have a state teaching credential, but depending on state requirements, it may be a special subject credential that does not have the same educational achievement and training standards as a regular teaching credential (e.g., in California, a BA degree is not required for the JROTC credential, and instructors do not have to take the California Basic Educational Skills test that all other teachers must pass).
A school must ensure that JROTC class enrollment will not drop below the smaller of either 100 students or 10% of the total student body. To help maintain the minimum, some students are involuntarily assigned to the class by counselors and can have great difficulty getting out of it.
If the minimum is not met, the unit is supposed to be placed on probation and then disbanded if it doesn't regain the minimum enrollment by the beginning of the following academic year (an extra year is granted if it's the first year of a new unit). There is some leeway for a waiver from the military.
In order for a school to disband an existing JROTC unit, it must give the military at least 12 months notice, even though regular teachers can commonly be given pink slips with only 6 months notice.
Really a recruiting program?
The military claims that it is not a recruiting program, but DoD statistics and testimony in Congress indicate that 40-50 percent of its students join the military, with most going directly into enlisted ranks. One reason for the high enlistment rate is the special enlistment benefits offered to graduates of JROTC programs (e.g., a slightly higher initial enlistee pay grade, advantages in applying for college ROTC, and the possibility of being nominated to apply at a military academy).
By conservative estimates, JROTC costs $75,000 per school once the program is past its start-up years. The primary ongoing expense is for instructor salaries and benefits, with additional costs for insurance, transportation and office and classroom maintenance. There can also be start-up costs for classroom renovation and secure storage facilities for weapons and uniforms. Some branches of the military require the districts to pay for uniform cleaning and equipment maintenance.
A federal subsidy is provied that is based on what the individual instructors would recieve if they were on active duty, minus their current retirement pay. The federal subsidy is limited to a maximum of one-half the difference between active duty and retirement pay. School districts set the actual salary amounts for JROTC instructors, which can be more than double the subsidy provided from this formula. At their own expense, school districts must also provide JROTC instructors with 100% of the benefits and tax payments applied to regular teachers.
Because at least twice as many instructors must be employed than would be required for other classes, the combined costs make JROTC much more expensive than other elective courses even after the federal subsidy is counted. This is rarely made clear when the proposal to introduce JROTC is brought to a school district. Instead, the military's high school training program is sold to school districts as a no-extra-cost program. Too often school boards and school administrations sign on the dotted line before they realize that the Department of Defense contributes a relatively small portion of the overall financial burden. School districts are underwriting the cost of teaching young people to march, drill and learn military history and behavior. And even if the military offers an introductory extra subsidy, it is only a one- to three-year deal, after which the costs will go up significantly.
There are a total of 3,429 JROTC units according to the source links by date:
Things to find out and ideas for JROTC campaigns/projects:
• Does your community have JROTC programs? At which schools?
• Research and expose the full amount of money JROTC is costing taxpayers in the area.
• Find out what JROTC programs are doing (shooting guns, military chants, etc.).
• Find out if students want to be in the class, or if they are involuntarily placed in it.
• Propose or coordinate other programs that would teach discipline, leadership, etc.
• Are schools in your community on the waiting list to get a JROTC program?
• Does JROTC have rifle firing ranges in your schools in violation of zero-weapons tolerance policies?
Important Strategy considerations
Some campaigns have been successful in blocking new JROTC units from being established, but once the program is in place at a school, public lobbying to remove it has not succeeded anywhere, including in the most progressive communities. Existing JROTC units have been removed in two ways:
The reason public campaigns fail to remove existing JROTC units is that they are well-organized lobbying bodies that intimidate even the most progressive school officials. A campaign that publicly calls for termination always triggers a pro-JROTC backlash that prevails.
The most effective campaigns, therefore, are ones designed to discourage student enrollment in JROTC, or that quietly educate school officials about the high expense for the program.
Here's information about a mostly student-led campaign that got JROTC firing ranges removed from 13 San Diego high schools and secured a superintendent directive banning involuntary placement of students in JROTC classes: Education Not Arms Coalition JROTC campaign. These steps may bring down enrollment enough to eventually cause termination of at least some of the units.
Controversy has arisen in the past about JROTC and militarism in schools. The American Friends Service Committee, the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO), Veterans for Peace, War Resisters League, and the Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities, actively oppose the JROTC for a number of reasons, including:
The Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools, formed by more than 50 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, aimed to "eliminate the Junior Reserves Officer Training Corp in our High Schools." Many cases of abuse by JROTC instructors, as well as credentialing issues, and of having students forced into JROTC due to lack of space in Physical Education classes have been noted in Los Angeles Public Schools. The group claims 2006 showed a reduction in JROTC enrollment in Los Angeles, with a drop of one-third or approximately 1,500 students, suggesting part of the explanation is efforts to stop the involuntary enrollment of students into JROTC. At Roosevelt High School in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles, a local campaign against JROTC cut the number of cadets 43 percent in four years, with a JROTC instructor reporting a 24 percent drop in enrollment from 2003-04 to 2006-07 for the rest of the Los Angeles unified School District.
In October 2005, the New York Civil Liberties Union pressured Hutchinson Central Technical High School in Buffalo, New York to release students from a mandatory JROTC program, arguing that the practice violates the State’s Education Law, which provides that no child may be enrolled in JROTC without prior written parental consent.
In May 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union stated that JROTC violates the United Nations sponsored Convention on the Rights of the Child by targeting students as young as 14 for recruitment to the military. The US has not ratified the convention.
The San Francisco Board of Education voted in November 2006 to eliminate JROTC altogether in the entire city within two years, stating that "armed forces should have no place in public schools, and the military's discriminatory stance on gays makes the presence of JROTC unacceptable." The Board of Education voted 4-2 to eliminate the program, phasing it out over two years. The proposal approved by the board also created a task force to develop alternatives to the program.
Following the vote, a volunteer group of parents came together in late 2006 to contest the elimination of the JROTC program. The group spent two years building a grassroots organization seeking to convince the School Board to reverse its vote.
When the School Board majority continued its refusal to allow JROTC the group gathered signatures and placed Proposition V, a non-binding measure, on the November 2008 general ballot. Proposition V supported the reinstatement of JROTC. Despite many predictions that it would be defeated due to anti-military sentiment in San Francisco, Proposition V passed with over 54% of the vote. In May 2009, the school board voted to reinstate the program.
However, the school board simultaneously decided to lay off all of its JROTC instructors and left undecided the question of whether students could earn PE (physical education) credit for JROTC participation.[clarification needed] In June 2009, the San Francisco School board voted 4 to 3 in favor of reinstating physical education credit for students enrolled in JROTC.
The issue came back to the School Board once more in late May 2011, under a challenge by opponents that a number of the JROTC instructors did not have the required PE teacher credentials. By this time, a more pro-JROTC School Board had been elected, and the majority voted to give JROTC instructors additional time to earn credentials. - Source
Here are some recommended links available to better inform you about JROTC. This is a work in progress and NNOMY will be adding new documents as they are prepared and as policies change that effect enlistment. Check back periodically.
Organizations you should know:
Articles on the web:
Learning the Issues about Youth Demilitarization
The NNOMY Reader is a useful primer to learn about the realities of military recruitment, the militarism effecting our youth in schools and our opportunities for peaceful coexistance. This collection of articles represents a historical overview of the U.S. based counter-recruitment movement's strategies to inform and intervene in schools and the community about the Pentagon's multi-billion dollar programs to recruit America's youth into escalating wars. The NNOMY Reader also includes some information on alternatives to enlistment, as well as research presented by activists and investigators on the nature and risks of cultural militarization and how it threatens our democracy. Learn more