March 15, 2017 FEA President's Report
To: FEA Members Worldwide
From: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
Re: FEA President's Report
Date: March 15, 2017
HIRING FREEZE LIFTED
As we reported to members last week, DoDEA schools have been exempted from the civilian employee hiring freeze imposed back in January by President Trump. We hope DoDEA will use this exemption to quickly fill the many existing vacancies in our schools, as well as to hire much-needed substitute teachers. FEA and NEA spent a lot of time the past 6 weeks informing decision makers in DC about the need to grant this exemption and the staff at DoDEA headquarters also did a great job making their case to the Pentagon. It is terrible that so much student learning has already been lost because of the high number of vacancies throughout our schools this year. We know our members have been working incredibly hard to fill the gaps caused by these vacancies and we hope the lifting of this hiring freeze will result in more help coming your way sooner rather than later.
STATESIDE AREA COUNCIL
Last week, FEA Executive Director/General Counsel HT Nguyen, Director of Communications Gary Hritz, and I traveled to Wilmington, NC, for the Spring Area Council meeting. It was a great opportunity to meet with leaders from our DDESS schools. We were also pleased to have a very productive discussion between our leaders and Dr. Emily Marsh, Acting Director for DoDEA-Americas. Michael Gavin, NEA Member Benefits representative, also presented great information on the programs and benefits NEAMB provides for our members. www.neamb.com) In addition to the elected leadership, it was especially nice to have more than 20 members from Ft. Bragg and Camp Lejeune join us for the Saturday session of the meeting. Many thanks to Jane Loggins and all the Stateside leaders who made this such an informative meeting.
DoDEA has now placed all but one of the educators who were declared excess this school year. Thank you to all of you who made sure all vacancies were reported to DoDEA HQ in order to help with the speedy placement of these excessed employees. Please continue to report such vacancies, since they will be used in the continuing reconsideration process for excessed educators.
For those members who are transferring OUTSIDE of the FEA Overseas Bargaining Unit, or for those who plan to resign/retire this year, be sure to file and elevate a Goodbye Grievance before your last duty day in the FEA Overseas Bargaining Unit. For copies of this form, please see your FRS.
WINDOWS 10 IMPLEMENTATION
We are currently working with HQ to give input on the plan and timeline for the transition to Windows 10 and Office 2013. As always, we hope this will be a smooth and speedy transition.
FEA is aware of the delays in processing travel orders for RAT and PCS due to the delay in budget approval. We have made DoDEA aware of our concerns and the difficulty that this delay presents for members. We will notify members when there are any developments on this issue.
There is a link on the DoDEA website right now that says "DoDEA Cares." This is related to an upcoming Customer Satisfaction Survey. There is a portion of this voluntary survey, which opens March 20, for teachers and the Association does not object to this. However, we do have strong concerns that DoDEA will disregard any data collected from this that does not fit their preconceived plans.
I am sorry to have to ask, but "DOES DoDEA care?" In the past few years I have seen countless examples of DoDEA's disregard for the educators who work in our schools. One of the clearest exampleS is the lack of a fair, consistent Compassionate Reassignment Program. Far too often I have heard from educators who have serious family and medical needs that cannot be met in their current locations. FEA believes that DoDEA needs to reestablish a policy that allows valuable employees to fill vacancies which would allow them to meet their family and medical needs. Over two weeks ago, I again wrote to DoDEA senior leadership about this concern. To date, I have had no response.
If DoDEA really cared about employees, there would not still be hundreds of pay problems waiting to be resolved. DoDEA would have dedicated more trained and qualified staff to resolving these issues in a timely manner. As it is, it takes years now to resolve these issues. When DoDEA senior leaders were invited to attend a recent Arbitration over pay cases, so they could hear firsthand about the hardships caused by these pay problems, they declined -- even though the arbitration was held in the same building where DoDEA headquarters is located!
Another sad example is the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program. Along with dealing with the hundreds of pay cases that have plagued our members, Bill Freeman has also uncovered numerous problems in the tracking and use of leave donated by Bargaining Unit Members to those educators in need of leave donations. Instead of working WITH FEA to address the issues surrounding the leave donation program, DoDEA has stonewalled our efforts and refused to comply with an Arbitrator's orders to accurately account for this donated leave.
I could go on, but just one more: if DoDEA truly cares, we will see employees offered retirement briefings and support to include access to HR reps who can answer individual questions and concerns.
Far too slowly, some educators are being paid the back pay and interest owed them for the MA+ case won by FEA attorney Bill Freeman on behalf of our members. So far, 199 educators have received payments. IF you have received interest on this back-pay, the following would apply to you:
"Per FMR Volume 8, DFAS (the PRO) does not withhold taxes on this type of interest income, thus the non-taxable income designation. However, they should have issued a 1099-INT for this payment. Please check myPay for a copy of this form, and if it is not listed, please contact your CSR."
RELOCATION INCOME TAX ALLOWANCE (RITA)
The Relocation Income Tax Allowance (RITA) is a statutory requirement (5 U.S.C. 5724(b)), which requires federal agencies to reimburse their employees for "substantially all" of the taxes they incur as the result of a PCS move (moves for which the government reimburses the employee). As a general matter, some of the costs an employee incurs through a PCS move constitute "taxable income" (Federal, state and/or local). As a result, regulations were created to implement the withholding tax allowance (WTA) and the RITA. However, it should be noted that the WTA and RITA also constitute taxable income themselves, and that the regulations also provide that the WTA and/or RITA calculations should also account for the taxes that will be incurred through this reimbursement process.
Please note that only management can calculate the amount of the WTA and/or RITA necessary to "substantially reimburse" the employee for taxes incurred. Accordingly, the Association cannot calculate or offer any advice on how much any employee would receive and we cannot confirm that the reimbursement is correct. Nevertheless, the Association believes that this reimbursement is usually in the best interests of the educator and recommends that DoDEA educators taking a PCS should complete the paperwork necessary to apply for the WTA/RITA reimbursement to avoid being "out-of-pocket" for any taxes incurred from the move.
READ ACROSS AMERICA
From everything I have seen and heard, our schools did an amazing job, as always, on their Read Across America celebrations. Events like this put the fun back into learning, which seems so often to be "regulated" out of our schools. Thanks to all who worked so hard on this celebration of literacy and learning.
POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY
There are many celebrations and special events in a year. One of my favorites as a teacher was "Poem in Your Pocket Day." This year it will be celebrated on April 27th and is a great way to engage kids and excite them about poetry. For more information on activities, etc. go to this page.
As I have noted before, Facebook is a great way to keep up with family and friends. Now that FEA also has a Facebook page (@fededassoc), be sure to "like" us and keep up with our news through this format as well. However, Facebook, including our FEA page, is not the format to ask questions about personnel, HR, pay or legal issues. Your first source of information for HR, personnel and pay issues should be the DoDEA contacts for your area. If you have further questions, please continue to contact FEA at FEA Legal for legal issues and FEA Admin for other issues.
NEA FOUNDATION AWARD
Each year the NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence recognizes educators whose professional practice and advocacy for the profession are exemplary. All state affiliates, including FEA, are allowed to nominate one candidate a year (we are currently looking for a nominee for 2017 -- our 2016 nominee, Laura Hastings of Camp Lejeune, was recently honored, along with other nominees, at a Gala here in Washington DC). The deadline for submission of all materials to FEA is April 1, 2017. We have amazing educators in DoDEA; don't miss this chance to nominate a colleague. For further information, contact your Area Director.
LATE WINTER STORMS
This week, the east coast of the US was hit by a late winter storm, closing some schools and offices. Wherever you are, I hope spring is just around the corner. Stay safe and well.