Bipartisan Effort Aims to Preserve JROTC Programs in Mid-Size Schools Nationwide

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a bipartisan push to safeguard Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs facing closure due to stringent enrollment requirements, Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Representative Michael Waltz (R-FL) have introduced the Preserving JROTC Programs Act. This legislation seeks to amend federal statutes to allow mid-size schools, such as those in the Phoenixville Area School District, to maintain their vital JROTC programs by adjusting the cadet enrollment thresholds.

The move comes in response to concerns that nearly a quarter of Air Force JROTC programs nationwide are struggling to meet the current minimum cadet enrollment requirement, putting them at risk of shutdown. “When 23% of Air Force JROTC programs aren’t meeting cadet enrollment requirements, it’s pretty clear the status quo isn’t working,” stated Houlahan, who is also a member of the House Armed Services Committee, a veteran, and a former teacher.

Under the proposed legislation, the threshold for the number of students needed to sustain a JROTC program would be reduced from 100 to 50 students. This adjustment aims to increase the presence of JROTC programs across America, particularly benefiting smaller communities where student populations may not reach the higher enrollment numbers currently mandated.

Rep. Waltz emphasized the dual benefits of JROTC programs in fostering civic engagement among young Americans and addressing the military’s recruitment shortfalls. “Our bill would…increase the number of programs across the country. The more programs available to students, no matter their size, the better,” he said, highlighting the importance of these programs as a steppingstone for youth interested in military service.

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The legislative initiative has garnered support from local education leaders, including Susan Turner, President of the Phoenixville Area School Board, who lauded the efforts of Reps. Houlahan and Waltz. She noted the Phoenixville Air Force JROTC’s role in teaching valuable life skills and fostering a sense of public service among its 65 cadets.

This is not the first time Rep. Houlahan has intervened to save a JROTC program. In 2020, she played a crucial role in rescuing the Coatesville Air Force JROTC program, which has since seen a significant increase in enrollment through partnerships with nearby school districts. The success of the Coatesville program, as recounted by instructor James E. Turnbull, underscores the potential positive impact of expanding access to JROTC programs through legislative action.

The Preserving JROTC Programs Act represents a critical step toward ensuring that JROTC programs can continue to contribute to the personal development of students and the broader community. By lowering enrollment thresholds, the bill aims to make these programs more accessible, especially in areas where the opportunity to participate in such enriching activities might otherwise be limited. As the legislation makes its way through Congress, it carries the promise of preserving an important pathway for young Americans to explore careers in public service and the military, while also cultivating leadership skills and civic awareness.

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