Don't Furlough Defense Teachers, Say Senators

Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was among those signing the letter saying that the furloughs would be detrimental for the children. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was among those signing the letter saying that the furloughs would be detrimental for the children. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

A group of Democratic senators is asking Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to exempt Defense Department teachers from planned furloughs in the fall.

In a May 29 letter, Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., told Hagel that the five furlough days scheduled for Department of Defense Education Activity teachers during the next school year would be detrimental for the children, and that this “was not the way to deal with the fiscal constraints imposed by sequestration.”

DoDEA Director Marilee Fitzgerald told employees in April that teachers were exempt from mandatory unpaid furloughs in the current school year, but noted possible uncertainty when schools start back up in the fall.

“The timing of these furloughs is especially damaging as they will be forced into the first month of school next year, impacting students’ access to high quality education,” the senators wrote.

The letter follows a floor speech Warner delivered in mid-May, where he said that the families of civilian and military personnel depend on the schools, and “should not be made to suffer” because of Congress’ inability to manage fiscal matters.

Defense civilians currently face 11 furlough days, which is down from the 22 they were expecting in March. Many exemptions have already been outlined, including for personnel funded through the National Intelligence Program, and public safety and health workers. 

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