DOD Withdraws Legislative Proposal after Critical ILJ Supplement Article: Legislatively Overturning Fort Stewart Schools

Last month the Indiana Law Journal Supplement published an Article, Legislatively Overturning Fort Stewart Schools: The Trump Administration’s Assault on Federal Employee Collective Bargaining, a critique of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) legislative attempt to end the ability of the teachers in the schools DOD operates for dependents of military personnel on bases in the United States to collectively bargain over pay. Another aspect of this proposed legislation would be to repeal the Overseas Teachers Pay and Personnel Practice Act, which requires DOD to set the salaries of the teachers in its overseas dependent schools based on a survey of the pay in stateside urban school districts. These rates turn out to be a proxy for collective bargaining because the same unions that represent the teachers in the DOD overseas schools negotiate pay on behalf of the teachers in many of these urban school districts.

On February 15, 2019, the Director of the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) announced that DOD was withdrawing its legislative proposal because of an anomaly in the law first pointed out to them by this Article and in its discussions with its author.  As the Article discussed, DOD’s legislative proposal ironically would have granted the Secretary of Defense “sole and exclusive” discretion to set the pay rates of teachers in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools operated on Indian reservations by the Department of the Interior. Presently, the law that governs the BIA schools provides that educators in those schools are to be paid the same as the pay established for “comparable positions in the overseas schools under the Defense Department Overseas Teachers Pay and Personnel Practices Act.” DOD’s proposal would have amended the BIA school statute to eliminate the reference to the Overseas Teachers Pay and Personnel Practices Act but would still require the BIA to continue to pay its educators the same as the pay for comparable positions in the overseas schools. Thus, the pay rates in the BIA schools would no longer be an average of the rates in large urban school districts, but rather whatever the Secretary of Defense deems appropriate for teachers in the overseas schools.

In his announcement, DODEA Director Tom Brady said that “there has been a lot of concern about the unified law and I have decided to hold it in abeyance for a few years.” He explained that “we found out that it impacted on the only other Federal school system and that’s the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and based on that, we decided to take it back.” See more here.

Looks like someone in Washington reads the ILJ Supplement.