DoD school closings, teacher furloughs may be reconsidered

5/28/2013, 3:16 p.m.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is being asked to reconsider school closings and furloughs.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been asked to reconsider a decision to close schools and furlough almost 11,000 teachers at Department of Defense (DoD) operated schools for up to five days this fall as part of the Pentagon’s plan to comply with budget cuts required by the sequester.

“The timing of these furloughs is especially damaging as they will be forced into the first month of school next year, impacting students’ access to high quality education,” the senators wrote in a joint letter to Sec’y. Hagel. “Our fiscal situation is going to require shared sacrifice, but our service members and their families continue to make great sacrifices for all of us every day… We owe it to them to provide the best educational services for their children.”

In Virginia, the DoD operates schools at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren and Marine Corps Base Quantico. The Defense Department also operates on-base schools for military children in North Carolina, New York, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. At U.S. bases overseas, these on-base schools often provide the only educational option for children of American military families. Approximately 83,391 students attend 193 DoD schools worldwide.

“The Defense Department should look for a smarter way to address the budget restrictions required through sequestration,” Sen. Warner said. “Furloughing classroom teachers and shuttering entire schools at the very beginning of the new school year is not a reasonable plan. It puts additional pressure on our military families, robs these children of a structured educational environment, and imposes even more challenges for educators to meet and exceed student and school accreditation requirements. There absolutely has to be a better way.”

In the joint letter to Sec’y. Hagel, Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Kay Hagan (D-NC), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) describe DoD educators as one of the most significant factors in student learning, as well as a vital source of stability for military children.

“The idea that we would look to them as a cost saving mechanism concerns us greatly… We do not believe these children’s education should have to suffer because of dysfunction here in Washington,” the senators maintain.

A survey of military families released last week by Blue Star Families, a leading national non-profit organization which advocates on behalf of military families, identified child education as one of the top concerns of America’s military families. Another top concern of military parents is the negative effect of deployments on their children.