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Letter to Conferees on the National Defense Authorization Act

October 07, 2009

Dear National Defense Authorization Act Conferee:

On behalf of the National Education Association’s (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to offer our views on three important issues as you craft the final FY2010 Defense Authorization Conference Report.  Specifically, we urge you to:

  • Reject Senate language that would require a study on options for educational opportunities, including private school vouchers, for dependent children of members of the armed forces. 
  • Accept Senate language adding the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act to the bill.
  • Accept House language regarding the National Security Personnel System (NSPS).

Vouchers for Military Dependents (Reject Senate Language)
NEA opposes any efforts to provide private school vouchers to military families.  Vouchers are not real education reform.  Pulling children out of the public school system doesn’t solve problems – it ignores them.  Real reform will put a qualified teacher in every classroom, keep their skills up to date with continuing education, and raise pay to attract and retain the best teachers. 

Proponents of a military family voucher program have cited the District of Columbia voucher program as a model.  However, the DC voucher pilot program has yielded no evidence of positive impact on the students the program was designed to assist – those attending schools that have been designated as needing improvement under the accountability systems of No Child Left Behind.  The program also has been proven to have no impact on achievement in mathematics, no impact on male students, no impact on students entering the program in the second year of its existence, and no impact on those students who scored in the lower third of baseline reading tests; i.e., those most in need of assistance.  

Vouchers are clearly not the right solution to ensure every student the highest quality education.  Voucher schools are permitted to maintain their admissions standards and can reject any public school student they choose.  They can reject students based on prior academic achievement and on the basis of gender.  Students with special needs often cannot find a private school that can serve them.  In contrast, public schools serve all students who come through their doors. 

Vouchers are not real education reform.  Providing vouchers for 750,000 students in military families stationed in the United States would be a huge expense.  Real reform will put a qualified teacher in every classroom, keep their skills up to date with continuing education, and raise pay to attract and retain the best teachers.  Rather than offering a chance for a few, we should be ensuring that every child has access to a great public school. 

Hate Crimes (Accept Senate Language)
In spite of substantial advances toward equality over the past 40 years, prejudice and hatred continue to lead to violence.  As educators, NEA members share a commitment to protecting the civil and human rights of our students and communities.  We believe the federal government must play a leadership role in confronting criminal acts motivated by prejudice.

NEA has taken aggressive steps to address the issue of hate crimes in the context of schools and school districts.  NEA and its affiliates have worked to develop training for educators and programs for students regarding hate crimes and human relations skills.  But our efforts in this area will not be successful absent a comprehensive federal/state/local partnership to address hate crimes. 

The bipartisan Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act has the support of  26 state attorneys general and over 300 national law enforcement, professional, education, civil rights, religious, and civic organizations, as well as the support of the overwhelming majority of American people. 

National Security Personnel System (Accept House Language)
The initial version of NSPS was an affront to the men and women at DoD who work so hard to support our troops and safeguard our country every day.  In creating NSPS, the Pentagon ignored guidelines set forth by Congress and sought to create an arbitrary system in which workers were stripped of their collective bargaining rights and left with no real protection or recourse from cronyism and other abuses. 
The House language would:

  • Prohibit the DoD from putting new hires into the NSPS and prohibit any reclassification of positions to NSPS (as of June 16, 2009).  DoD has suspended conversion of current employees into NSPS but is continuing to place new employees into the system.
  • Require conversion of all NSPS employees back to the General Schedule within one year of enactment, unless the Secretary of Defense notifies Congress - 6 months prior - of any significant improvements to NSPS following a comprehensive.
  • Place similar restrictions on the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System.
    In contrast, language in the Senate bill, while purporting to terminate the NSPS, would in fact implement a new system that would cause many of the same harmful impacts as NSPS. 

Thank you for your consideration of our views on these important matters. 


Diane Shust
Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody
Manager of Federal Advocacy