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September 16 2013 FEA President's Report

TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Chuck McCarter, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
Date: September 16, 2013

BAS

In a violation of labor law and, more specifically, the 2011 MOU it signed with FEA, DODDS has unilaterally halted negotiations over the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) and illegally implemented the heavily-flawed program.

The use of BAS, as mandated by DODDS, takes away far too much classroom learning time. In most classrooms, administering the BAS will easily take up the five days of classroom instruction that we just successfully defended against furlough threats.

FEA wanted the further use of the BAS to be accompanied by a meaningful survey of those educators who use the assessment, to determine whether they thought it was useful and worth the time it takes away from classroom learning. Not surprisingly, DODDS resisted this idea.

DODDS's pushing of BAS is typical of the way the system is run today; with decisions about education being made by Headquarters "experts" who haven't been near a classroom in years (if ever) and true input from the education professionals who teach children every day being shunned. Equally bad, BAS is a huge drain on DODDS resources at a time when budget cuts area already threatening so many aspects of learning.

Over the past decade, many parents and (finally!) politicians have learned that testing does not equal educating. Sadly, this is a lesson that the "experts" at DODDS refuse to learn and, in fact, they seem to be flaunting their ignorance in the matter.

WHAT DO I DO ABOUT THE BAS?

FEA will be taking legal action on this issue. We will be asking all educators affected by this illegal implementation of BAS to keep thorough records of the time they spend administering and entering data from the assessment. Be on the lookout for additional information from FEA's Washington Office later this week, giving more details about that process and offering other guidance to our members.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

People who have been out of the classroom for YEARS or who have NEVER been in the classroom routinely make decisions about educational policy in DoDEA.╩ To make things worse, they seem unable or unwilling to listen to input from the people who actually do the work, who are in the classrooms on a day-to-day basis, who see the effect of ill-conceived policies and mandates.╩ FEA will continue to remind DoDEA Headquarters to listen to the true experts: those in the field.

SF-50's

At the beginning of the school year, you should have received a new SF-50, showing your return to duty status, etc. If you have not, please check with your school secretary. Once you receive this, double check to insure that all the information is correct and save this for your records.

IS YOUR SCD CORRECT?

Please don't wait until you wish to retire or for some other important event... check to see if your Service Computation Date is correct and if it is not, start the process to correct it. Contact your District HR Team for assistance.

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH

This annual recognition of Hispanic and Latino culture and its contributions to our country runs from September 15 to October 15. The Smithsonian Institute offers a number of teaching resources, available at this page, and more materials and information are available through the NEA Web site, available here.

TAX CHANGES FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGES

The IRS and Treasury Department have announced that all legal same-sex marriages will now be recognized for federal tax purposes, including tax laws relating to employee benefits. This means, for example, an individual legally married to a same-sex partner will no longer be subject to federal income tax on employer-provided health insurance coverage received by a same-sex spouse, and an individual may purchase same-sex spousal coverage on a pre-tax basis if offered by an employer. Same-sex couples can also begin filing federal tax returns as ╥married filing jointly╙ or ╥married filing separately╙ for the 2013 tax year. These changes apply only to federal taxes (check with your state of record to see whether they have adopted similar policies for state taxes) and will apply even if the married couple resides in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages. Below are links to the announcement and an FAQ on this topic.

IRS Announcement
FAQs

OTHER SAME-SEX BENEFITS

Since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last June, the federal government, including the Pentagon, has taken rapid steps to extend rights and benefits to same-sex couples in a number of ways. Benefits such as health/dental/vision insurance, life insurance, Federal Flexible Spending Accounts, housing allowances, veterans benefits and retirement pension benefits have already been opened to same-sex spouses and the children of same-sex couples. Many more changes are being implemented currently or are awaiting administrative/executive review. The volume of federal benefits affected by the Supreme Court decision makes finding comprehensive information impossible -- even the OPM Web site has not yet been fully updated to reflect most changes -- so we apologize if we are unable to address every question about benefits programs at this time.

There are, however, two specific benefits topics I would like to call members' attention to:

The first is ID cards. As you probably know, the Pentagon began issuing ID cards to all same-sex spouses of eligible DOD civilian employees on September 3. In response to FEA questions that began long before the Supreme Court's DOMA decision, we have learned that the Department is working to finalize procedures to allow ID cards for same-sex domestic partners as well. We are told the procedures for recognizing same-sex domestic partnerships are currently being reviewed by the Justice Department and, barring any problems, the Pentagon may be able to begin issuing IDs to domestic partners later in 2013.

Secondly, we are aware of there being some complications in extending full rights to same-sex spouses in certain countries, especially in Asia, because to do so requires amending the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the U.S. and the host nation. Those complications are being worked on. We have heard, for example, that most issues have been resolved with Korea, with the exception of ration cards (which are still being worked on). FEA has asked NEA Government Relations to work with the Pentagon and Department of State to see that all such issues abroad are resolved and that same-sex spouses of DoDEA employees in any country receive treatment equal to that of their opposite-sex counterparts.

PAY PROBLEMS

FEA UniServ Attorney Bill Freeman has updated the information packet he makes available to DODDS members facing pay problems or irregularities. That information packet can be downloaded from FEA╒s Web site by going to this page. DDESS employees facing pay issues are advised to work through their local Association building representative, who will get them in touch with the FEA-Stateside UniServ Attorney, as necessary.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

Your Association representatives and FEA Association staff work hard everyday to protect your rights, but there is no substitute for your own knowledge of the rights and responsibilities spelled out in the legal agreements negotiated between FEA and DODEA. Arm yourself with knowledge by viewing the negotiated agreement and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) for your school system.

DoDDS members can find the Negotiated Agreement between FEA and DODDS and a list of important MOUs by going to this page
DDESS members (both classified and certified) can find their Master Labor Agreements and MOUs by going to this page

MEMBERSHIP

FEA is grateful to you for your support as an Association member. We would especially like to recognize those schools that achieve 100 percent membership in the Association. If your school reaches that milestone, please send a note to me or to FEA Communications Director Gary Hritz (ghritz@nea.org) letting us know so we can highlight your achievement in a future FEA President's Report.

ON THE ROAD

I am currently in Europe, attending trainings for our FRSs from each district and conducting school visits. I have attended these trainings over the years in various capacities: as an FRS, a District Representative, a Europe Area Director, and now as FEA President. Later this month, I will be traveling to Peachtree City, GA, to attend the Stateside Area Council meeting of Local Association Presidents and FEA-Stateside Region officers. Meanwhile, FEA Executive Director/General Counsel is on his way to the Pacific to attending FRS trainings in Japan, Okinawa and Korea. I cannot offer enough praise to the educators who voluntarily step up to fill these roles as building representatives and local Association officers. Without you, FEA could not possibly function or be an effective organization. Thank you for all you do!

STAY INFORMED

As always, the best way to reach me is through email at cmccarter@nea.org. And the best way to keep informed about what's happening in DoDEA is by signing up to receive this twice-monthly FEA President's Report directly to your email. To do so, visit this page on the FEA Web site. (We recommend using a private Email address, such as a Google or Yahoo account, to receive the update)