May 1, 2018 FEA President's Report
UPDATE ON THREAT TO DODEA
By now, FEA members are hopefully all aware of the harmful potential of the legislation DoDEA management is pushing in Congress to merge the Overseas and Stateside school systems. Since FEA reported to members last week about specifics of the law, such as the elimination of all meaningful bargaining rights and even the most basic civil-service protections other federal employees have under Title 5 of U.S. Code, our members have begun responding in a way I've never seen before. Great job, everyone!
One of the most disturbing and frightening aspects of DoDEA's proposal is their claim that, although the law (if approved by Congress) would wipe out existing negotiated agreements and policies for things such as compensation and benefits, the new policies that would govern such aspects of employment have not even been written yet. In other words, when you ask DoDEA "what about my years of retirement credit I've earned" or "what would I be paid" if this law passed, their only answer is "we don't know yet." The same answer would apply to just about any other aspect of work life.
DoDEA management wants a carte-blanche authority that no other agency in the entire U.S. government, to our knowledge, has been granted. Does any DoDEA employee honestly believe management wants such unrestricted authority so that it can boost your pay, increase your benefits and shower you with thanks for the great work you've done? Of course not!
DoDEA's proposed legislation would have a devastating effect on our schools: driving away the great employees who've contributed to DoDEA's longstanding record of success and turning DoDEA into the kind of school system that no one would want to work for.
As FEA reported last week, DoDEA's hurtful proposal does not appear to be in the current draft of the DOD Authorization Act. That could change at any time, however, since the final version of that bill will not be passed until the fall. We are very fortunate to have the support of NEA when we are faced with huge challenges like this. Anyone who wants to learn more about this hurtful and ill-conceived proposal by DoDEA should go to this page.
DODDS PAY INCREASE
The computations for SY 17-18 pay schedules for DODDS employees have been finalized. The average rates of increase for each position are as follows:
Classroom Teachers -- 2.03 percent
Speech Pathologists -- 2.03 percent
Guidance Counselors -- 2.11 percent
School Psychologists -- 1.55 percent
Please remember that the above percentages are the AVERAGE rates of increase across all pay steps and pay lanes for each position. Individual lanes and steps may be higher or lower than that average.
DODDS salaries are based on the rates of pay for comparable positions in the school districts serving all urban areas of the United States with populations of at least 100,000 (as defined by the 2010 census). There are 267 such urban school districts in the current salary computations. As always, FEA (with A LOT of help from NEA!) collected data from many of the school districts so that we could independently confirm or correct the salary data gathered by DOD's Wage and Salary Division. We met with Wage and Salary, and with DoDEA representatives, last week to finalize the data.
DODDS RETRO PAY
Because it takes most of the current school year for Wage and Salary to collect current salary schedules from the 267 urban districts that determine DODDS salaries, the DODDS salary figures for a given school year are not finalized until that school year is nearly over. It used to be that the "new" salary figures would not kick in until the following school year, but FEA won a legal case decades ago that requires DODDS to make a retroactive pay adjustment to its employees, paying them for the amount they would have received had the current school year's salary figures been known back in August, when the school year started.
This difference between what you have received so far this school year and what you should have received is paid to you in a lump-sum, retroactive salary adjustment. That retroactive adjustment will be made to you in one of your upcoming pay checks; most likely the May 18 pay check.
This entire pay system, including the retroactive pay adjustment, is one example of something that would be wiped out if DoDEA proposed merger legislation is adopted by Congress. And what would it be replaced with? Management doesn't know! Or, at least, they're not saying, except that they promise no one would "lose money." Does anyone else think that sounds like a salary freeze?
The tax changes passed last year have created what is believed to be an unintended burden on many federal employees, including DoDEA employees. The amount the government pays for employees to move their household goods and to cover other travel costs may no longer be tax deductible, under the new tax law. Other allowances may also be taxable now. This is creating a potential tax burden in the hundreds or thousands of dollars for employees, especially those moving to new locations, including those moving into or out of DoDEA service as brand new or departing employees. This situation may affect not just DoDEA employees but thousands of other feds. The GSA and DOD are aware of the problem and have bought the issue to the IRS. It is hoped and expected that they will take corrective action on this issue during this tax year.
RAT AND EDTRAVEL CONCERNS
FEA is aware of the ongoing issues with RAT and Education Travel that many of our members are experiencing. We will continue to bring those concerns to DoDEA's attention for resolution.
STATESIDE AREA COUNCIL
Last week, FEA Executive Director/General Counsel HT Nguyen, Gary Hritz, our Communications Director, and I were able to attend the Stateside Area Council in Arlington, Va. It was a great opportunity to meet with the leadership from our Stateside locals. On Friday, those leaders had the opportunity to question and express concerns to management officials from DoDEA Americas and DoDEA HQ about DoDEA's proposed legislation and many other issues affecting our members and their students. On Saturday, Becky Pringle, NEA Vice President, was able to stop by for a short visit. Becky spoke eloquently of NEA's work to advocate for educators and the host of challenges facing us. She spelled out clearly NEA's support for FEA and our members as we face an administration that has shown so little respect for the educators who have made DoDEA one of the leading school systems in the nation.
Next week, I will begin a series of school visits in the Pacific, including Sasebo, the Zama complex, and Okinawa, and will then attend the PAL meeting in Seoul. I am very pleased that I will be joined in Zama and Okinawa by NEA Executive Committee member, Hanna Vaandering. Hanna is the former president of the Oregon Education Association and is an outstanding advocate for teachers and public education. I am glad that Hanna will get to see the great work our members do every day and that our members will get to hear from her! HT Nguyen will also be joining us in Okinawa and Seoul. For specific information about these visits, please contact your local leaders.
CONGRATS EUROPEAN PTA
This year the European PTA will celebrate their 60th Anniversary. This is a great time to remember the important partnership represented by this organization. A strong and supportive PTA is a huge asset to any school. FEA extends our congratulations to the European PTA and looks forward to continuing to work together to support our schools and our students.
Congratulations, also, to Katie Biggs, Stuttgart ES, who was recently named the European PTA's Educator of the Year. It is always wonderful to see one of our great DoDEA educators honored.
ASIAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER HERITAGE MONTH
For information and activities you can use in your classroom, go to NEA's web site.
TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK
May 7-11, National Teacher Appreciation Week, is a great time to celebrate the wonderful work educators do to support, nurture, challenge and educate their students. DoDEA's continuing success on such indicators as the recently announced NAEP results are one more example of the great work our educators do every day in our schools around the world. May 9 has been designated National Teacher Day, and May 10 is School Nurse Day. This week, and every week, DoDEA educators should be celebrated for the amazing work you do!
RED FOR RESPECT
A number of our Stateside locals have held "Wear Red for Respect" days and we are hearing that the idea may be spreading, with the possibility of a DoDEA-wide "Red for Respect" day on May 7th, the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week. I think DoDEA employees have always felt respected by the military community we serve and the students we educate. Certainly, our respect and admiration for them is limitless! It is somewhat frustrating that we do not receive the same respect from the management of the school system we have spent our lives helping to build and make great. This is a failure of that management. Fortunately, things can change and I hope, by making our feelings known, DoDEA management will look into the mirror and see that it can accomplish so much more by working with its employees instead of treating them dismissively.