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Sequestration Hurts Military Children and Teachers

The men and women in our military have demands on them that no families should have to endure. They have been fighting two wars--not counting the worldwide war waged by terrorist groups and the constant stress resulting from the volatility of the Middle East, North Korea, and even our homeland. Should they also have to endure the disruption of their children's education due to furloughs of teachers and education support staff brought about by sequestration? Congress should be ashamed that its misplaced priorities, politics, and personal agendas have hurt military families.

I was appalled to hear on my local news that teachers at Fort Bragg and all teachers and education support professionals who teach in Department of Defense schools face a possible five days of furlough when they return to school for the 2013-14 school year. I know Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tried to minimize the impact on schools; 90 percent of the Defense Department's 750,000 civilian employees are being furloughed for up to 11 days. But this differentiation is not enough. Furloughs hurt everyone. Military personnel and DOD educators are not well paid people. Losing pay will be a hardship and will put a great strain on these dedicated employees and their families. They deserve better.

Furloughing teachers and education support professionals will not only affect the school employees, but also the children and their parents, including military personnel. First, every day of instruction is critical to a child's education. It is ironic that some politicians who want to extend classroom time for students would be part of efforts to decrease education time at military schools. Second, cutting a child's days in school creates instability for a family with working parents. Third, furloughs ultimately undermine the attention that teachers can give to students because many furloughed educators may have to work second jobs to make up for lost wages. This is a classic example of "penny wise and pound foolish" decision making.

America justifiably has a lot of pride in our military. Those military parents who send their children to Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) schools have a lot of pride in the education of their children. These military parents understand that the teachers have worked hard to assure that DODEA schools are some of the best in the nation. Their academic programs are considered equitable and excellent. What is more important to parents is the care and nurturing of DODEA students, especially children of parents deployed to war zones. For those parents and their children, teachers and other school personnel provide a sense of security and one less thing to worry about during deployment.

Luckily, we have time to turn this around. We can join forces with the Federal Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association. We can contact members of Congress and remind them that their inaction on sequestration has real impact on families. We can contact Defense Department Secretary Hagel to ask him to exempt teachers and education support personnel from furloughs because of the negative impact on military families. We can contact President Obama and ask for his intervention. The only thing we cannot do is nothing.

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