The takeaway from CPS’ story on JROTC

There’s nothing inherently wrong with military-style JROTC programs. But students deserve a range of education options, no matter what high school they attend.

SHARE The takeaway from CPS’ story on JROTC
Hundreds of CPS students — many at West and South side schools — were automatically enrolled at military-type education classes, a new OIG report has found.

Hundreds of CPS students — many at West and South side schools — were automatically enrolled at military-type education classes, an OIG report has found.

Sun-Times file photo

Smaller high schools in low-income communities of color often struggle to offer students a robust curriculum with a variety of course offerings.

These schools just don’t have the money, and so teens miss out on arts, foreign language and other courses, including physical education — even though the state requires daily phys ed classes.

Military-style Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps classes are considered a substitute for gym class. That’s partly why hundreds of high school students in some Chicago Public Schools found themselves automatically enrolled in JROTC even when they didn’t want to be, as the CPS Office of the Inspector General found recently.

In fact, for two years in a row at four high schools, 100% of freshmen were automatically enrolled in JROTC. No wonder Chicago has been a national leader in JROTC participation.



To be clear, we see nothing inherently wrong with military-style classes or JROTC. As some principals pointed out to the OIG, which released its findings on the matter this week, JROTC teaches leadership skills, offers field trips and provides scholarship opportunities.

That’s a potentially good deal — if a student and family want it, which is why the JROTC program is supposed to be voluntary. Students shouldn’t be forcibly signed up, and if a mistake is made, they should be able to easily unenroll without hassle — which wasn’t always the case.

The OIG listed 10 recommendations to fix the problem, which CPS, to its credit, has agreed to implement.

The OIG’s investigation was prompted by a June 2021 story, published by the education news outlet Chalkbeat Chicago, that first reported that high school freshmen from at least 10 schools were automatically enrolled in JROTC.

Compounding the problem was the fact that the forced enrollments happened only in South and West Side schools with Black and Latino students. That fact — no surprise — didn’t go over well with some parents and anti-military activists, who complained that students of color were being forced into the military and denied other options for college and career readiness.

For us, that’s the bigger takeaway from this story: Students deserve options, no matter which high school they attend.

Send letters to

The Latest
The Bulls and coach Billy Donovan consider Terry another great piece to a growing competitive group, but with free agency set to begin on Thursday, Zach LaVine remained the main part of the core. A core the Bulls will try and keep intact.
Cecilia Thomas was inside a car when another car approached and someone inside the second car opened fire, striking her in the head, police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.
“I have to give a shout-out to the police. They did an amazing job. There were plenty of police resources,” Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said. “Given the volume of people that were here, they did a great job…I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
The court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki extended Griner’s detention for another six months after she appeared for a preliminary hearing held behind closed doors.
The court ruled 6-3 along ideological lines for the coach. The justices said the coach’s prayer was protected by the First Amendment.