(Washington)— The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today decried a Department of Defense (DoD) proposal to shut down elementary and secondary schools at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Under this controversial proposal, military families would be forced to have their children educated in neighboring North Carolina county school systems.
In a bipartisan effort organized by Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) to sway opinion at the Pentagon, Republican and Democratic congressional representatives sent a letter to Under Secretary of Defense David Chu asking him to “ensure that the elementary and secondary schools at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune continue to be staffed with DoD civilian employees.” The letter also emphasized that while public schools do a more than adequate job of addressing the needs of military students and their families, military base schools are more sensitive to the specials needs of children with deployed relatives and are “integral to the retention and recruitment of dedicated military personnel.” Signatories on the letter included Hayes, Sens. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Reps. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.), Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.).
While DoD uses costs savings as a rationale for the attempted school closings, a report by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised serious questions about the proposal and pointed out that there is no persuasive evidence that the closings would result in long-term savings to taxpayers.
“Closing down Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune schools won’t save taxpayers a significant amount of money now and won’t save them any money in the long term,” says AFGE National President John Gage. “Shutting the door on schools that are doing a great job educating the children of military families doesn’t make any financial or common sense.”
Schools on military bases often are considered the best in the country. A 2001 study commissioned by the National Educational Goals Panel concluded that students at base schools scored higher on achievement tests than students at civilian schools. The study also found that high expectations at military base schools helped narrow the achievement gap between white and minority students.
Gage went on to say, “This is a jobs issue as well. Loyal employees will lose their jobs for no reason if this plan is allowed to move forward. Additionally, if schools on military bases in North Carolina are allowed to close, the proposal could also affect schools on military bases in Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, New York and Virginia.