November 1 2019 FEA President's Report

TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Brian Chance, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: November 1, 2019


The Association has heard from hundreds of members experiencing pay problems this school year -- most of them in the form of bogus debt collections for which the individuals are not even receiving any warning or notification attempting to justify the collection. We have taken our members' reports directly to the highest levels of DoDEA. No sooner had we been told the issue was resolved than another round of problems is again present in this week's payroll.

At a time when the present administration is seeking to impose ludicrous working conditions on rank-and-file employees -- including giving written-up employees just 30 days to show improvement or risk discipline or removal -- we must ask, "who at DoDEA headquarters is being disciplined or removed for their ongoing failure to fix and prevent pay problems?"

We will continue to bring these and other pay issues before DoDEA management until the system is permanently and accurately fixed. Furthermore, the Association is examining all available legal options to force DoDEA management to correct these false debt collections, if such measures become necessary.

Paying your employees accurately and on time is a BASIC operation of any business or organization. Pay problems make it difficult or impossible for the working people in DoDEA to pay their bills, feed their children and put gas in the car so they can get to work everyday. These are real problems DoDEA is creating and failing to fix. It is long past time for the leadership of DoDEA to step up for employees and get this situation permanently fixed!


I met this week with the DoDEA Director and emphasized to him the need for a strong transfer program, especially for those employees in locations facing extreme isolation and other hardships. Talks will continue on this issue but at this time there is nothing definite to report.


Congratulations to FEA-Stateside Region General Counsel Ben Hunter and the FEA-SR leadership for a very big victory on the issue of Stateside employees being denied proper compensation for academic credits earned. You can read about that issue by going to the update from FEA-SR on the win.


The most recent report I've heard has 12 empty teaching slots at DoDEA's Guantanamo Bay schools -- that's one-third of the staff! Teachers are being made to work double duty and management is still not fixing the situation. We've told DoDEA Headquarters to pull ISSs out of their desk jobs and TDY them to Cuba until permanent replacements can be found. Not surprisingly, HQ has failed to do so. The harmful working conditions DoDEA seeks to impose on its workers, along with the everyday challenges educators face in DoDEA and elsewhere, will make such shortages more common across the system in the future. DoDEA doesn't seem concerned that there continues to be a significant lack of services for our military children and their families, on a daily basis. Every DoDEA student deserves a certified professional in front of him or her everyday. We will continue to advocate on behalf of the communities we serve.


It is beginning to appear increasingly likely that politics may derail any chance of getting PCS tax relief extended to incoming and retiring/separating civilian employees during 2019. At the urging of FEA and NEA, such relief was included in the initial House and Senate versions of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and we were confident some form of the relief would make it through to the final version of the NDAA and be signed into law. Recently, however, fighting over whether to include funding for a border wall and other political issues are threatening to derail passage of the NDAA and other appropriations bills needed to fund the government. One possible stop-gap solution being considered is the passage of a so-called "Skinny NDAA", which would fund basic military operations but leave out things the Armed Services Committees consider to be non-essential. Unfortunately, in the present atmosphere, the PCS tax relief may be considered non-essential and may not make it into this Skinny NDAA. The situation continues to play out but Congress will have to pass some sort of funding soon to avoid the Pentagon running out of appropriations altogether. We will continue to urge inclusion of the PCS tax relief, whether in the Skinny NDAA or in some future version of the NDAA. The affected employees desperately need this relief.


DoDEA students continued their record of outstanding performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP) tests. Results released this week show DoDEA fourth graders leading the nation in reading and math scores, while eighth graders were first nationwide in reading and second in math. Far from being the results of the latest curriculum fad pushed by DoDEA headquarters, the students' scores reflect an upward trend on the NAEP assessments that began a decade or more ago. The continued excellence of our students on the NAEP is due to their hard work and that of the experienced and caring educators that DoDEA is now attacking through harmful contract actions and degrading working conditions. DoDEA needs to exhibit more than lip service to show those hard-working educators they are valued. And DoDEA management needs to quit trying to "fix" what the data clearly shows is and has long been an outstanding school system.


For those of you who participate in the FSA Health Savings Accounts, if you plan to retire in the coming year, here is some information that may help in your planning. Be aware that you can only claim reimbursement for expenses incurred before the date of your last contribution to the program. While the website says expenses incurred before your retirement date are eligible, the fine print on the website says "your participation in FSAFEDS stops as of your termination date or the last day of the pay period in which FSAFEDS received an allotment (FSA contribution.)" In other words, if your retirement date is June 30, but your last full paycheck was paid on June 14, only expenses incurred prior to June 14 will be eligible. Be aware of this if you plan to participate in this program during your final year of work.

You can learn more about this issue at the FSA Feds site
(thank you to Chuck McCarter for sending in the above information!)


During the week of November 18-23, the FEA Board of Directors will meet at the NEA Building in Washington DC. This is a chance for your elected officials to meet together to discuss concerns and issues across our school system. This is also a great chance to meet with NEA staff and governance to discuss how they can best support FEA and our members. Please be patient while your representatives are here in DC as they may not be able to respond quickly to your emails or calls.


Speaking of the Board of Directors, congratulations and thank you to all the candidates nominated for election to Area Director seats on the FEA Board. You can find the list of candidates by going to the FEA Election Information Page. Ballots will be mailed to all Active FEA Members in mid January.


The theme for this annual reading celebration, to be held March 2, 2020, is: Celebrate a Nation of Diverse Readers

Plan ahead by obtaining an Online RAA Calendar at NEA's Read Across America site or by ordering the printed RAA 2019-2020 Calendar & Poster at the RAA Store.

As an FYI, NEA's marketing agreement with Dr. Suess Enterprises ended on August 31, 2019. Because of this, NEA's Read Across America logo and materials will no longer feature the familiar Cat in the Hat. Because of this change, you should now use one of the new Read Across America logos instead of the NEA Cat in the Hat logo with your Read Across America promotions. However, locals may continue to use Dr. Seuss books and themes in their reading celebrations if they wish to do so. Only the NEA "Cat" logo is being discontinued. You can obtain the new RAA logos at this page on NEA's RAA site.


Individual members and Local Associations planning their own Read Across America events are encouraged to submit info to FEA for possible Read Across America grant funds. The deadline to submit your information is this Sunday, November 3. FEA will use the requests we receive from our members and Locals as the basis for our State's application to NEA for Read Across America grant funds. If we receive such grant funding from NEA, we will distribute the fund to as many of the applicants as possible. Learn more and submit your fund request -- by the November 3 deadline -- by going to this page on the FEA site.


With so many issues facing us these days, please remember to stay informed by checking the FEA site regularly or following us on Facebook (@FedEdAssoc) for the latest important information. Updates such as this are routinely sent directly to members' personal e-mail addresses. If you are an Association member and did not receive this update directly via e-email from FEA, please send us notice so we can figure out why you are not receiving messages.


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. Go to NEA's American Education Week resources.


Finally, I am very excited to announce we learned of three more schools that have achieved 100 percent Association membership this year. A most sincere "thank you" goes to the membership and local leadership at the following schools for their support of the Association and for their dedication to the cause of employee rights and quality education for DoDEA students:

  • Edgren Middle/High School
  • Vilseck High School
  • Kaiserslautern Middle School

If your school has reached 100 percent membership, please send us a message so we can recognize you as well. Thank you again to all those at these schools whose hard work and dedication made this possible!