Military children who attend Defense Department schools on bases around the world will no longer have extra days off this fall and teachers will no longer be furloughed, Department of Defense Education Activity Direct officials announced today.
"The Secretary granted a specific exception for 10-month, school-level DoDEA employees (instructional and support staff) to be implemented immediately," said DoDEA Director Marilee Fitzgerald in an email sent to DoDEA employees early today. "This is great news for our mission - educating children."
Teachers, who work on a 10-month schedule, had previously been scheduled for five days of furloughs between the beginning of the school year and the end of September. Over 11,000 DoDEA teachers were to be furloughed as part of the DoD-wide civilian furlough plan. About 84,000 children would have been impacted, with about 60,000 of those at overseas bases.
Now those children and teachers will spend those previously scheduled furlough days in school, bumping the number of scheduled school days back up to 183 from 178.
"Children will be in school for the days previously announced as furlough days and that those days are now being removed from school calendars," said Frank O’Gara, a DoDEA spokesman.
DoDEA schools must be in session a minimum of 175 days a year to maintain their accreditation, according to DoDEA officials.
For all DoDEA schools, the change will mean updating the official school calendar posted to their website. For others that have already started their school year, such as the schools at Fort Campbell, Ky., it will also mean sending new schedules home with students.
Many parents were relieved by the decision.
"My stepdaughter has been having a really rough time in school the past couple years," said Julia Calvillo, an Army spouse at Fort Campbell. "And we were afraid all these extra days off were going to make it even more difficult for her to catch up."
But not everyone was thrilled. Some spouses said they had already made plans for the furlough days.
"I am glad they were cancelled I just wish the decision was made before the school schedule was made official," said Amber Bibb, also at Fort Campbell. "I was counting on having [August 23 and 26] off because we have to go home that weekend … and now the kids will have unexcused absences on the record."
But education officials applauded the decision.
"This is great news for our members and their students," said Chuck McCarter, president of the Federal Education Association, in a statement. "Student learning should never have been threatened by these furloughs in the first place. Let’s hope lawmakers and the Pentagon realize how close they came to doing real damage to classroom learning in our schools and never again consider shortchanging military dependents of the education promised to them as a viable option for fixing politically manufactured budget issues."
The cancelation news comes as Hagel also announced a DoD-wide reduction from 11 furlough days to six for year-round civilian employees, including commissary workers.
"While we are still depending on furlough savings, we will be able to make up our budgetary shortfall in this fiscal year with fewer furlough days than initially announced," he said in a statement.