Hundreds of cadets, veterans and parents made their case during a meeting in southwest suburban New Lenox.
It was standing-room only Thursday night as one speaker after another stood in front of the school board, and made passionate, emotional pleas to save the JROTC program. The Air Force program is currently at four high schools.
JROTC cadets were front and center in New Lenox, fighting to save the program that will be phased out over three years.
"We get to finish this program," said Emma Albers-Lopez, sophomore JROTC student. "But there are 8th graders now that aren't going to be able to do the program. There are 7th graders, 6th graders, here are kids who are never going to be able to experience this."
"Every member of the Board of Education understands the value the JROTC program provides. This is not an easy decision to make," said Arvid Johnson, Lincoln-Way 210 School Board President.
Hundreds of cadets, veterans, and parents showed their support at Thursday night's school board meeting for Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210.
"At the earliest age of a military is a JROTC program, and if we don't support it at its roots then how do we train up people who are willing to step across that line?" said retired Maj. Wiley Roberts.
It boils down to money. District officials argue the student-teacher ratio for core academics is 24 to 1. The district says it's 11 to 1 for JROTC.
"Is there an activities fee? Is there something else that we can possibly do because this program is so important to the cadets," said Tiffany Albers-Lopez, JROTC alumnus.
"The federal government does give them some money for this program, so I don't understand where they are coming from when they want to cut costs," said Bill Conner, Post Commander, VFW 2791.
District officials say there are eight instructors and the program's yearly cost is more than $750,000. The Air Force pays nearly $260,000, but the district says it must cover the rest.
On Thursday night, parents have hope.
"I'm hoping tonight they heard because so many people came out," said Edith Lutz, JROTC parent.
"We don't have the agenda for the next meeting. It may be on there, but at this point I think it's unlikely," said Johnson.
Technically, this is a done deal, unless the issue comes before the board again. The next board meeting is in mid-March.