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Obama: DoD schools show sequestration's impact

Mar. 6, 2013 - 09:19AM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 6, 2013 - 09:19AM  |  
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Military students are on President Obama's radar when it comes to the effects of the budget cuts known as sequestration.

"The Department of Defense … has to figure out how the children of military families are going to continue with their schooling over the next several months because teachers at these bases are typically civilians; they are therefore subject to furlough, which means that they may not be able to teach one day a week," Obama said in a news conference March 1.

"I expect that we'll be able to manage around it," Obama said.

But defense officials could not immediately provide information about whether there is, in fact, a formal plan for the Department of Defense Education Activity to deal with sequestration, which, if not resolved, will force school personnel to take 22 furlough days squeezed into the end of the current school year and the first month of the next year.

"If I'm a man or woman in uniform in Afghanistan right now, the notion that my spouse back home is having to worry about whether or not our kids are getting the best education possible, the notion that my school or my children … might be disrupted because Congress didn't act, that's an impact," Obama said.

He used the DoD schools as evidence that the effects of sequestration are not being overstated by his administration.

Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the House Armed Services Committee's military personnel panel Feb. 27 that although teachers are not exempt from furloughs, DoD intends to handle sequestration "in a manner that preserves the ability to provide students a full school year of academic credit, including completion of final exams, and to maintain school accreditation standards."

This "may or may not require reducing the number of furlough days" for teachers, she said, adding that officials will have more definitive information later in March.

Unions representing DoDEA teachers are not happy about the furloughs.

"Military parents should be outraged over this," said Michael Priser, president of the Federal Education Association. "Shutting down the schools during furlough days will seriously harm the quality of education their children receive."

FEA spokesman Gary Hritz said his understanding is that DoDEA plans to close schools for a certain number of days, rather than use rolling furloughs that would effectively push students into other teachers' classrooms.

But how many days schools might actually close is unknown, he said.

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