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Management of Overseas Schools Sharply Criticized By Teachers

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Teachers in American schools overseas are forced to educate too many students, to use meager and outdated materials, and to teach in dilapidated buildings, the president of one of the two major overseas teachers' unions has told Congressmen weighing alternatives for the large and sprawling international network of U.S. schools.

Jack Rollins, president of the Overseas Education Association (oea), an nea affiliate which represents 6,500 teachers abroad, called some aspects of the system--which is the nation's 11th-largest in numbers of students served--"a regular circus."

He added that because of management problems, "the contrast between the image and the reality [of teaching in the overseas system] is quite stark."

Defense Department Hearings

Mr. Rollins' comments came during joint hearings on the Department of Defense Dependents' Schools (dodds) held late last month by the house Subcommittees on Investigation and Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education.

The purpose of the hearings was primarily to elicit comment on a proposed transfer of the entire overseas school system to the Education Department from its current position within the Department of Defense. But the subcommittees also heard testimony on conditions in the schools and opinions on several pending House bills that would affect the system.

11th-Largest System

There are currently 270 Department of Defense schools in 20 nations serving some 135,000 elementary- and secondary-school students.

The system exists in six geographical areas, the Atlantic, Pacific, Germany North and South, Panama, and Mediterranean regions.

Pay rates for teachers are equal to the average rates for similar positions for a similar level of duties in stateside school systems. The schools educate the children of eligible dependents of overseas federal personnel in addition to children of Defense Department workers.

However, the system has outgrown the resources that support it, Mr. Rollins argued.

"Teaching in overseas schools means ever-increasing class sizes without any expectation that the school budgetary situation will improve,'' he said. "[It] means waiting two or sometimes an unbelievable three years for materials and supplies [and] teaching in a dilapidated school building with inadequate facilities for your students....

"The training programs for teachers are inadequate and the certification and recertification program is frankly a joke," he said.

Anthony Cardinale, director of the overseas schools, did not comment on the charges at the hearing. "I didn't do that because the criticism was so outlandish it was not worthy of a response," he said afterwards.

"We are preparing comments on some of these things because they cannot go unchallenged. I think we owe it to the committee to answer some of these, but let me hold my judgment until after the elections," he said, referring to the forthcoming election of a new oea president.

Move Is At Issue

The major issue concerning the overseas dependents' schools is the proposed transfer from the Department of Defense (dod) to the endangered Education Department.

The Reagan Administration, officials of the system, and the Overseas Federation of Teachers (oft), an American Federation of Teachers affiliate representing 1,800 teachers in the system, are all against the move. It has been pending since 1978, when it was proposed under the original legislation that created ed

The transfer is scheduled to occur by May 1983 if it is not reversed by new legislation.

The Office of Management and Budget is currently drafting legislation that reflects the Administration's opposition, according to Mr. Cardinale.

And Sen. Dan Quayle, Republican of Indiana, has already introduced a bill that would block the transfer.

Union Supports Transfer

But the oea supports the move. "It may seem unusual for me to be advocating transfer of the schools from the Department of Defense to the Department of Education when many are saying, 'Stay with Defense--they have all the money this year," Mr. Rollins said.

"But there is no evidence...dodds will truly prioritize the educational programs provided to the children of service people overseas," he added.

An oft spokesman was much less critical of the current status of the overseas schools within the Defense Department.

"That is not to say there aren't real problems with the schools," he said.

"In most school systems there is a political entity called a school board, before which teachers can take their grievances. dodds has no political method of dealing with problems."

There are also basic administration problems because of the special nature of the system. "It's a school system spread all over the earth," the spokesman said.

The Education Department had also prepared a report on the schools.

"Our report was definitely not condemnatory," said Robert E. Ardike, executive assistant in the Office of Education for Overseas Dependents.

"We thought overall it was really quite a good system. There are problems, but we did not find the effect of nightmarish conditions either in discussions or first-hand assessments," he said.

Status Would Be Lost

The oft opposes the transfer of the overseas system to ed because, a spokesman told subcommittee members, such a move would endanger the special status enjoyed by overseas teachers.

Currently, overseas teachers are covered by the Status of Forces agreements between the U.S. and countries in which there are U.S. military installations. The teachers, classified as Department of Army Civilians (dac's) are exempt from alien-registration and work-permit requirements. They do not pay taxes in the host nation and they can obtain a vehicle registration and driver's license through the American military.

oft leaders argue, and overseas-schools officials agree, that these rights would possibly be forfeited along with their military status because "domestic law of the United States has no binding authority on the actions of the host nation.

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