October 18, 2019 FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Brian Chance, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: October 18, 2019
THE ATTACKS CONTINUE
As we reported to members last week (read that update here), the White House is moving forward with implementation of three incredibly harmful (and, in our opinion, illegal) Executive Orders attacking employee rights to due process and just-cause protections, as well as other rights and Congressionally-mandated civil service protections.
The move by the White House follows the lifting of an injunction against the Executive Orders earlier this year (read about that ruling here). FEA and other unions initially won that injunction but it was overturned on appeal by a Federal Court, which said the issue must first be brought before the White House-appointed Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to be ruled on before any federal court could consider the case.
In addition to the basic workplace rights listed above, the Executive Orders also attack the ability of employee-elected union representatives to use Official Time to fulfill their duties of representation. The orders also place severe restrictions on the length and scope of collective bargaining sessions between employee unions and management.
FEA and other federal unions have vowed to continue fighting these illegal Executive Orders, which violate Federal Civil Service laws and we will seek legal remedy if DoDEA attempts to violate our members' rights at any time. Please see the updates referenced above for more details.
SMALL SCHOOLS BEING TARGETED?
The Pentagon has asked DoDEA to justify the continued existence of several small schools with enrollments under 100 students. Schools being placed under the microscope are Dahlgren School (Virginia), Kleine Brogel (Germany), Garmisch (Germany), Livorno (Italy) and Seville (Spain). Crouton ES is also part of the review but is already scheduled to be closed at the end of the current school year. Though small, these schools serve locations that are extremely isolated and closing them would result in long commutes for students and/or parents in most cases, or, in the case of Dahlgren, potentially shifting some or all of the financial burden for educating the students to state and local governments. NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, a staunch supporter of our members and schools, has joined FEA Director for DDESS Jane Loggins and myself in signing a letter addressed to lawmakers in Virginia, seeking their support for keeping Dahlgren School open as well as calling their attention to the threat against the other DoDEA small schools being reviewed. I fear this may be yet another effort to free up funding for other projects by shortchanging DoDEA students -- and I further fear this is just the beginning of a dangerous trend!
PCS TAX RELIEF STATUS
Efforts by FEA and NEA to have the government extend reimbursement on PCS moving taxes to incoming and retiring/separating civilian feds continue, though progress on virtually all legislation has slowed to a crawl recently. We are awaiting the conclusion of the conference between Senate and House lawmakers on their respective Armed Services committees, which will determine the final content of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will be passed by each Chamber. We remain hopeful that some extension of the PCS tax reimbursements will be included in that final NDAA, though we will not know for certain until the conference process is over and the bill is passed, then signed into law. Nor can we be certain of the terms of any tax reimbursements, if they are included. We hope the reimbursements will be made retroactive to the beginning of 2019, or at least early enough in 2019 to cover our members who retired at the end of the 18-19 school year, as well as those new educators who entered the system this year and are now facing a huge tax bill for PCS moving assistance they received as part of a move between the US. and an overseas duty location. FEA, working with NEA's Government Relations office, continues to press the need for such relief and we will let members know as soon as any details emerge about the final language in the NDAA.
I know transfer opportunities are very important to our members in overseas locations, particularly those places that are extremely isolated or presenting other hardships. I have a meeting scheduled later this month with DoDEA Director Tom Brady and will emphasize the need for a strong transfer program. At this point, there are many transfer-related rumors circulating but until I have a chance to speak with Mr. Brady, I would not want to comment upon them or speculate on whether a transfer program is even likely to happen this year.
SOME GOOD NEWS!
Congratulations to the following FEA members for being among this year's recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching: Amy Dougherty (Aukamm ES), Patrick McDonald (Yokota MS), Michael Pope (Zama M/HS), Deborah Young (Garmisch E/MS). You exemplify the outstanding quality of DoDEA educators worldwide and we are honored to have you as members. Well done!
READ ACROSS AMERICA GRANTS
FEA is once again applying to NEA for grant funds that would be used to help Local Associations and individual members hold Read Across America events next March. If you or your local association would like to be considered for grant funds (assuming we are awarded any from NEA), please submit an application to the FEA DC office by Sunday, November 3.
In order to receive grant funds, events must incorporate NEA's theme of "Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers."
You can learn more about applying to FEA for grant funds by going to this page on the FEA Web site.
Remember, the deadline to apply is Sunday, November 3, 2019.
NEA's Pathways Project seeks to provide leadership training opportunities to new and veteran members who identify as Hispanic, Latinx, Chicano, Native, Indigenous, American Indian, Black, Asian, Pacific/Islander, Native Alaskan and/or Native Hawaiian.
Application deadline is November 1, 2019. Learn more and apply by going to www.nea.org/pathways
NATIONAL AMERICAN INDIAN HERITAGE MONTH
November is recognized as National American Indian Heritage Month. Visit these sites to find materials you can use to plan lessons around this topic:
Smithsonian Institution --Transforming teaching and learning about Native Americans
NEA -- Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month
Don't forget, American Education Week is coming up -- November 18-22. AEW will present all Americans with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. Plan now to celebrate the great work our DoDEA schools and educators do every day around the world. NEA's American Education Week resources
On behalf of the entire Association, I want to say "thank you and congratulations" to the faculty at Robinson Barracks Elementary in Stuttgart for achieving 100 percent Association membership this school year. We are so grateful for the support you all have shown FEA and we are extremely honored to be your Professional Association. I know I speak for every level of the Association when I say we will continue working hard for you to earn your trust every day. Thank you once again!
If your building has achieved 100 percent Association membership this school year, please let us know so we can cite you in a future President's Report. Send us word at firstname.lastname@example.org and "thank you" in advance!
NOW MORE THAN EVER
As described in some of the items above and in items we've been reporting on over the past year or more, our members and DoDEA schools as a whole are under increasing attack from DoDEA management and the federal government. Whether it be illegal contract implementations, stripping construction money from much-needed schools, or seeking to impose harsh working conditions through Executive Orders and other tactics, we are in an unprecedented environment; one in which DoDEA employees are increasingly treated as if they were enemies rather than educators.
Fighting back against these attacks -- and those that are sure to come in the future -- is going to be the greatest challenge in the history of our Association. It is obvious that those responsible for these attacks do not want employees to have a voice and they hope worsening conditions and increasing tensions will break unions once and for all, leaving employees unorganized and incapable of recovering from whatever damage is inflicted under the current regime.
At times like this, it is important that we all remember the reason why unions such as ours exist in the first place. It is because, no matter the impediments put in our way and negativity that is thrown at us, employees like you and I will ALWAYS be more capable of responding to and surviving such attacks by acting in a unified manner, with resources behind us (not just from FEA, but from NEA as well) that none of us could muster on our own.
This fight is going to last for some time and we will take our share of lumps, to be certain. But I am proud of the way our members are standing together in the face of these attacks: holding firm with each other; showing those that seek to silence employees that we will not turn on each other or turn against what we know is best for ourselves and our students.
Pressure can crush us, or it can make us stronger. We will continue to choose the latter!