For years, homeschool students have been unfairly barred from participating in JROTC programs at public schools. A new bipartisan federal provision will put an end to that.

The United States Army Junior Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) is a Department of Defense-funded program hosted at public and private high schools. Despite its name, it’s not a recruiting tool for the Army. Instead, its stated mission is “to instill in students . . . the values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment.”

JROTC cadets build leadership skills, learn how to work as a team, and develop their critical thinking and emotional intelligence. It’s a program that schools should encourage students to participate in.

Unfairly Kept Out

But for years, many schools have been turning homeschool students away from JROTC programs simply because they were homeschooled.

Because it’s voluntary for schools to host a JROTC program, it’s also voluntary for them to accept students who are not enrolled at the host school. Current law does not state whether or not JROTC is open to homeschool students, so a vast array of policies across the country related to homeschool inclusion in the program exist As a result, many homeschool students have been turned away from JROTC programs that take place on public school grounds.

Earlier this year, U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Doug Jones (D-Alabama) introduced bipartisan legislation that would require public schools to allow homeschool students living in the same jurisdiction to participate in their JROTC program. In the House, U.S. Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) introduced an identical bill.

A few states, including Virginia, have tried unsuccessfully to pass similar legislation. So it was a pleasant surprise when the bill was included in both the Senate and House versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and passed without a word of opposition.

The NDAA is set to be signed before the end of the month, making the bill an early Christmas present for homeschoolers.