December 17 2019 FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Brian Chance, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: December 17, 2019
As our Overseas members have surely heard by now, there will be no transfer program again this school year. This was a decision made by DoDEA, claiming that Pentagon budget scrutiny and review of individual programs make having the transfer program impossible.
A number of members, understandably upset about management's decision, have asked why the Association cannot take legal action to force a transfer program.
The answer is that an arbitrator ruled against the Association years ago on the question of whether DoDEA is required to provide a transfer program in a given year. The arbitrator ruled that DoDEA has the right to decide whether it will hold a transfer program, but if the Agency does decide to have a transfer program it must negotiate the terms of that program with FEA. Not surprisingly, this is one of many rights DoDEA is hoping to strip away as part of a new Overseas contract.
FEA does not agree with or support DoDEA's decision to not hold a transfer program. The transfer program is a vital part of employee morale and a key to retaining quality employees in our school system. We also view it as something management promised to many employees at the time they were recruited; unfortunately, the above-referenced arbitrator did not agree with that interpretation.
Although we will not have one this year, FEA will always advocate for DoDEA to provide a full, well-funded and transparent transfer program. Such a program is necessary to the continued success of DoDEA schools.
PCS TAX RELIEF
We hear a lot of bad news these days but the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act included a huge win for FEA members. Eligibility for reimbursement of taxes on government-provided moving/relocation services (such as flights, furniture moving, TLQA, etc) was extended to incoming employees being moved to their first duty location and also to retiring/separating employees being moved back to the U.S. from their final Overseas duty station.
Even better, the reimbursements will be available retroactively for any moving taxes assessed since January 2018.
This tax relief is something FEA and NEA have been urging decisionmakers in DC to provide for more than a year.
These moving services became "taxable income" under the 2017 tax code changes enacted by Congress. Prior to that, there was never a tax on the value of such services. In 2018, after the new tax became known, FEA/NEA and other labor organizations were successful in advocating for reimbursement, but at the time the government would only grant it for current civilian employees moving from one duty location to another. This excluded those initially entering and those retiring/separating from federal service. The provision passed recently in the 2020 NDAA extends RITA/WTA tax reimbursement to those incoming/outgoing individuals as well.
We are EXTREMELY grateful to NEA Government Relations for all their work in making this happen!
PAID FAMILY LEAVE
Another positive in the 2020 NDAA is the granting of 12 weeks paid family leave to all federal employees for the birth or adoption of a child. Such leave is common in virtually every other country on earth and it has been promoted by FEA/NEA and other federal unions for years. Additional information about the implementation of this leave will be shared as it becomes available.
DOD BUDGET SCRUTINY
As mentioned elsewhere in this update, DoDEA is citing the ongoing comprehensive budget review taking place throughout the Department of Defense as a primary reason why the Agency will not fund a transfer program this school year. Dubbed the Pentagon's "night court," this review has already seen dozens of programs throughout DOD cancelled or restructured, with the stated aim of redirecting funding towards the military's direct defense and lethality operations.
FEA has reported already that several small DoDEA schools, each with under 100 students, are already directly under threat from this review. The fate of those schools has not yet been determined but the Association has already begun the process of reaching out to lawmakers to seek their help in assuring that our students are not made to sacrifice in the name of Pentagon budget cuts.
As we all know very well, there are many in Congress and in other positions of influence in Washington DC who think the Pentagon should not be operating its own schools, particularly domestically. These budget reviews will undoubtedly lead to increased scrutiny of DoDEA's budget and operations worldwide. As always, we will work vigilantly and in concert with FEA-Stateside Region and NEA to fight back against any attacks on our schools.
SPREAD PAY ISSUES/CHECK YOUR LES
DoDEA posted information last week -- available to employees on DoDEA Connects -- about efforts by the Agency and DFAS to correct the ongoing pay problems caused by the implementation this summer of spread pay.
The Association recommends members routinely check their Leave and Earnings Statements, which you can view at the MyPay site to look for any irregularities and, if you find any, you immediately contact your FRS or Local President for advice and assistance about filing a pay grievance.
We also recommend members download and utilize the salary organizer created by member Larry Tjelveit to help keep track of your pay, you can find that organizer on the FEA Web site.
PERFORMANCE EVALUATION FOR DoDDS EDUCATORS
Many members have asked about the use of DPMAP as a performance evaluation in Overseas schools, wondering what the Association's response to management's implementation has been.
FEA and DODEA do have a signed MOU on performance evaluation in Overseas schools. Under this MOU, EPAS is the agreed upon performance evaluation for DoDDS teachers. Unfortunately, DoDEA, claiming that it is required by law (The National Defense Authorization Act), disregarded EPAS and implemented the DoD mandated DPMAP performance evaluation. When a Federal employee is required by the employer to perform a task (in this case, to follow/use DPMAP), the employee must follow the employer's orders/instructions (unless the order would require the employee to risk his/her life, etc.).
The implementation of DPMAP is clearly a violation of the MOU on using EPAS for performance evaluation in Overseas schools. While FEA considers the requirement to use DPMAP for performance evaluation to be in violation of the FEA-DoDDS agreement, our teachers must follow/comply with the requirement to use DPMAP. To refuse to follow orders/instructions from management will expose employees to disciplinary/adverse actions. This is the reason why the Association has advised our educators to "comply" with DPMAP.
This is not to say that we are not challenging the implementation of DPMAP. In fact, we did file an Association Grievance to challenge the implementation of DPMAP on behalf of ALL Overseas bargaining unit employee represented by FEA. H.T. Nguyen and Alex Nguyen represented the Association at the hearing before Arbitrator Lawrence Evans on November 27-28, 2018. The Arbitrator ruled in favor of FEA on April 23, 2019. Unfortunately, DoDDS appealed the arbitrator's decision to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). We are awaiting a decision from the FLRA.
Until we have a final decision on this issue, our DoDDS educators MUST comply with the requirement to use DPMAP for performance evaluation.
ESP TRAINING GRANT SOUGHT
As a result of discussions with Education Support Professional (ESP) leaders that first began at the FEA-Stateside Region Area Council meeting in the Fall of 2018, a two-year grant request has been submitted to NEA for professional development for our ESP members in Stateside schools. The grant request was written by FEA's representative to the NEA Board of Directors, Anita Lang, in conjunction with several ESP leaders from FEA-SR. The goal of the grant is to bring ESP leaders from each of FEA-SR's six ESP locals together using a train-the-trainer model to share the NEA Professional Growth Continuum and Racial Justice in Education trainings. These ESP leaders will be given resources to take back to their locals with ongoing funding for local PD. A decision from NEA on the grant request is expected by sometime in February.
NEA FOUNDATION GLOBAL FELLOWS APPLICATION
Applications are now being sought for the 2021 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellows program.
NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellows participate in a 12-month professional development program that includes in-person workshops, online coursework, webinars by leading experts, peer learning, and an international field study experience.
The NEA Foundation partners with EF Educational Tours, a global leader in international education, to design transformative field study experiences for the Fellows.
FEA member Michael Pope from Japan was a 2019 Global Fellow and highly recommends the program to any Association member interested in expanding their horizons.
Learn more about the program, including how to submit your application prior to the February 1 deadline, by going to the NEA Foundation site.
Lastly, I want to wish all FEA members worldwide a safe and joyous holiday season and a happy and healthy new year. Enjoy your holiday break!