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Report Summary

TRADING BOOKS FOR SOLDIERS: The True Cost of JROTC

A new study by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) finds that the true cost to local school districts for hosting Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs is often much higher – in some cases more than double –- the cost claimed by the Department of Defense. The report questions whether during a time of tight school budgets, with many local school districts struggling to meet students’ basic needs, local school districts nationwide should be spending more than $222 million in local tax dollars on JROTC personnel costs alone.

The report, Trading Books for Soldiers: The True Cost of JROTC, presents an analysis of hidden costs to school districts considering hosting JROTC while comparing the cost-effectiveness of JROTC to non-military educational programs. These costs fall in two major categories: 1) Salaries, including fringe benefits 2) Other costs such as insurance, facilities renovation, transportation and multiple JROTC unit supervision.

Trading Books for Soldiers contains JROTC salary data acquired under the Freedom of Information Act, case studies from local school districts, a primer on components of JROTC cost and tips for investigating school district spending on JROTC.

Among the report's conclusions:

  • JROTC programs cost local school districts substantially more than the cost estimates the military provides to schools.
  • The relative costs of JROTC courses, compared with academic subjects, may be even greater due to the fact that a JROTC instructor team carries a lighter teaching load than a single high school teacher in non-military subjects.

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Personnel Costs

During the 1998-99 school year, the estimated personnel cost to a host school for the salaries of a typical instructor team (two instructors) was $76,000, more than twice the military's estimate. The military's published estimate of the cost for one JROTC instructor team is $28,000 to $32,000 annually. The discrepancy between these two estimates is due to the fact that the military's estimate does not include significant components of an instructor's salary, namely fringe benefits and bonus pay.

It is important to note that the real cost of JROTC to any given host school may be greater than $76,000 because some programs employ more than two instructors. In addition, school districts with multiple JROTC programs may be required to hire a retired officer to supervise them, adding a cost- sharing arrangement. These supervisors, totaling 50 for Army JROTC programs alone, cost school districts approximately $1.8 million for the 1998-1999 school year.

Other Hidden JROTC Costs

Insurance, facilities renovation, and transportation all contribute to additional costs school districts must bear to provide these programs, yet rarely do they figure into cost estimates provided local school boards when the program is being considered.

School facility expenses and transportation costs provide two examples. In many cases, school facilities must be renovated in order to accommodate the JROTC program. This is especially true for programs with a marksmanship component. JROTC cadets participate in many field trips, and expenses related to these trips are not always covered by the military. In one example, the school board of Lansing, Michigan investigated the costs of extra bus runs for JROTC cadets and found them to be $8,402.

JROTC vs Nonmilitary Educational Programs

The report also finds that JROTC instruction is more costly on a per-pupil basis than academic, non-military instruction. Reports by the Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (San Diego, CA) and the Harrisonburg School District (Virginia) found that on a pro-rated basis, more financial resources were used for JROTC than other programs, such as math, English, and physical education.

School district investment in JROTC represents a trade-off for students. Continued investment in military programs reduces funds available to support programs such as college preparatory classes, art, sports, and conflict resolution training, or to reduce class size and expand student counseling services.

Trading Books for Soldiers is the third in a series of investigations of JROTC programs undertaken by the AFSC’s Youth & Militarism program. Previous reports include Making Soldiers in the Public Schools: An Analysis of Army JROTC Curriculum and Is JROTC a Wise Use of Class Time?, which examines how colleges and universities view JROTC course credit.

The report may be obtained from the AFSC National Youth and Militarism Program for $3 per copy or $2 per copy for orders of 10 or more.

The American Friends Service Committee
National Youth and Militarism Program
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102-1479
Phone 215/241-7176

A press release about the report is also available.

Learn more...
Our report, Making Soldiers in the Public Schools
Learn more...
Is JROTC a wise use of class time?
Learn more...
Does JROTC help our eforts to prevent schools?
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