April 15 2009 FEA President's Report

To: FEA Members and Local Leaders Worldwide
From: Michael Priser, FEA President
Re: FEA President's Report
Date: April 15, 2009

DoDDS SALARIES -- The 2008-2009 DoDDS salary schedules have been finalized and can be viewed (in PDF format) by FEA members at at this site.

The average percentage of each increase for basic pay (steps 1-14) for various educators were:
  • Classroom teachers -- 1.9 percent
  • School psychologists -- 2.23 percent
  • Guidance counselors -- 2.46 percent
  • Speech pathologists -- 2.16 percent

Please keep in mind: these are average increases across the entire salary schedule for each position. The actual rate of increase for an individual on any of these schedules may be higher or lower, depending where that person is on the schedule.

Because DoDDS salaries are based on the average salaries in 230 urban school districts around the U.S., the percentages of increase this year are lower than in recent years. This is due to the widespread economic hardships hitting school systems across the country, which has resulted in many districts experiencing pay freezes and major cuts in staffing.

The survey of urban school districts' salary schedules that produces the DoDDS schedules each year is conducted by the DoD Wage Setting Authority. FEA conducts its own independent survey to confirm the data then, along with representatives of DoDEA, we meet with the staff of the Wage Setting Authority to resolve any questions and sign off on the data. FEA would like to thank the staff of the Wage Setting Authority and DoDDS Human Resources Department for their work on this project.

Because it takes many months to collect and analyze the salary data from all 230 urban districts, the current year's salary schedule is typically not finalized until the spring. Thanks to a legal victory by FEA, however, DoDDS educators do not have to wait until next school year to be paid on the newly-computed salary schedule. Instead, they will receive a lump sum pay adjustment, retroactive to the start of this school year, to pay them the difference between their new SY 08-09 salary amount the amount from the 07-08 salary schedule they were being paid on. Those pay adjustments will likely be sent out in mid to late May.

GRADESPEED UPDATE - As we approach the end of the school year, FEA will be conducting a comprehensive survey that will include questions about Gradespeed. Gradespeed is the electronic grade book that also allows another avenue for communication with parents and students. High school teachers may also use the quarter average grade to let the parents and school know, not only the student's progress, but also his/her eligibility for extracurricular activities. The grades entered (including the quarter average grade) needs to reflective of the student's current status in the class.

EXCENT -- As mentioned in my March 28 FEA President's Report, DoDEA has installed an updated version of Excent Online, aiming to correct major problems with the system. DoDEA also sent out a newsletter, detailing fixes contained in the new version, and a troubleshooting guide. DoDEA has asked that ongoing problems with Excent Online be reported to Lorie Sebestyen, Chief of Student Services, and Jeff Friedler, Chief Information Officer. Both can be found on DoDEA Outlook email. Please also continue to let your FEA building reps know of problems so they can pass them up the line to us here in DC.

NSPS -- FEA joined other member associations of the United DoD Workers Coalition, at a meeting with Deputy Sec. of Defense William J. Lynn April 9 to present our case for repeal of the National Security Personnel System (NSPS). John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, led the coalition group. Congress is now studying NSPS to determine whether is should be rethought, or completely eliminated.

ANTI-TERRORISM TRAINING -- Teachers who will be returning to Korea for the start of school year 2009-2010 will not have to retake their annual Level 1 Anti-Terrorism training if they return within a few days of their one-year anniversary for taking the training. If, however, the one-year anniversary of a teacher's Level 1 AT training date will occur a few weeks or months before their return flight, that teacher will be required to retake the training prior to leaving Korea. This policy will not extend to other employees, non-bargaining-unit members, or dependents.

ATTENTION RETIREES -- NEA is currently working to remedy an unintended consequence of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that could cause financial hardship for retirees. Background on this issue is provided below.

Background: The Internal Revenue Service has issued new tax withholding tables to reflect the Making Work Pay credit on earned income that was contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While pension benefits are not considered earned income and NOT subject to the Making Work Pay credit, IRS nevertheless instructed the payers of retirement benefits to use the new federal withholding tables. Unfortunately, this likely will result in under-withholding on pension income, and retirees, most of whom are on a fixed income, may find themselves unexpectedly owing taxes at the end of the year.

If the IRS does not modify its position on this matter, benefit payers, acting on the new IRS directive, will begin withholding using tax tables that are known to be inappropriate for most retirees. While pension payers have indicated they will do everything possible to notify retirees of the reason for the change in the net amount of their benefit payment and the potential for under-withholding, the only way benefit recipients can change the withholding amounts is to instruct their pension systems to increase the amount of their withholding. Furthermore, at the close of 2010, they will have to readjust their withholding to reflect the fact that the tables for 2011 will no longer incorporate the Making Work Pay credit.

NEA believes that the IRS should allow the use of the old tables for income that is not eligible for the Making Work Pay Credit. NEA is actively involved with AFSCME, the National Council on Teacher Retirement, National Association of State Retirement Administrators, and AARP urging the IRS to use the old federal withholding tables. In addition, NEA and its coalition allies are actively lobbying Congress and the Administration to take action averting potential problems with the "Making Work Pay Credit" and retiree pension recipients.

What should retirees do? In order to avoid unexpected taxes at the end of this year, you should arrange to have the withholding amount on your pension adjusted. As always, FEA recommends speaking with a financial expert as part of your decision-making process.

TRAVELING ABROAD -- I would like to thank the FEA leaders and members at West Point Elementary and Middle School for a great visit. I will be on the road for the next 5 weeks, so there may be some delays in responding to emails. I will be attending both the FEA European Area Council meeting and the Advisory Council on Dependent Education meeting in Europe. While on that side of the globe, I plan to meet with teachers at Garmisch, Brussels, Baumholder, Bitburg/Spangdahlem, Vogelweh/Kaiserslautern, Ramstein, and Wiesbaden. In May, I will be meeting with the local leaders in Korea, Okinawa and Japan. I will also include school visits to Yokosuka complex and Sasebo. I always enjoy meeting with our members and seeing the great work that you accomplish every day. It is an honor to represent you.

Have a great week!