Sequester, you say? I respond with, “What about the children?!”
No, seriously, what about the children?
Most people have been passively following the hubbub over sequestration in the federal government. It inspires a collective “meh” for most people who see our military as bloated and wasteful (as well as the rest of the federal government). They are not entirely wrong, but they are not entirely right, either.
Consider this: The Department of Defense is in the business of educating children.
Yep, really. Educating children.
For stateside military installations that do not have an arrangement with local school districts for educating military children who live on the federal installation and overseas bases where no local schools are available, the Department of Defense runs schools under the Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA). The children who attend DoDEA schools have no other public school options.
Generally, they have a reputation for providing good Elementary, Middle, and High Schools for military children.
Now, say goodbye to 5-day school weeks for thousands and thousands of military children, including high school kids who are taking AP courses and attempting to compete with college-bound students across the nation for placement and scholarships.
You see, local community school districts are run by elected school boards who levy taxes in various ways in the community. They plan their budget based, largely, on the value of property within their district, and that amount is generally known each year.
DoDEA schools depend on the defense budget. That was once known and highly predictable. Not now. Now, DoDEA is forced to furlough employees (read: teachers) the same as every other government agency during sequestration. In doing so, they will close schools on days that teachers are furloughed.
Using the Fort Knox school system as an example, the following days will be eliminated from the Spring Semester school calendar:
April 24 and 26; May 3, 8, 10, 17, 21, 22, and 30.
That’s right, a total of 9 days must be eliminated from spring semester due to furloughs starting with the week of April 22. Starting that week, the remainder of the school year consists of 3 3-day weeks, 1 4-day week, and a 2- day week. This means that the kids lose 10% of spring semester days due to sequestration.
But, that’s not all. Remember, the sequester lasts until the beginning of the next fiscal year (October 1).
This means DoDEA kids face the following days off in August and September:
August 1, 9, 14, 16, 23, 28, and 30; September 6, 11, 13, 20, and 27.
This means that the kids start the first two months of next school year with 3 3-day weeks and 5 4-day weeks, a loss of 13% of their Fall Semester days.
What happens after October 1? Does it matter?
We can point fingers and assess blame as much as we want. We can blame lawmakers for dragging their feet and engaging in partisan gridlock. We can accuse high-level bureaucrats of cooking the books to maximize their present and future budgets. However, neither of those tactics help any of the children who are subject to DoDEA jurisdiction because their parent(s) were ordered to serve at a certain location across the globe.
Finally, military personnel (many at the lower-end of the pay scale) are forced to make arrangements for child-care. Most will pay out of their own pockets for child care services. They do this because they must spend their days training for combat operations and preparing for deployment. Also, don’t forget the families of deployed service members who also much make arrangements for these several sequester snow-days.
The second and third-order effects of the sequester are almost limitless, including the effect on military children, their futures, and their education.
And, that’s fine. After all, all’s fair in love and sequestration.