Congress Eyes Closing On-Base Schools
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 3, 1996 DoD is conducting a congressionally mandated survey of more than 45,000 parents to assess the education their children receive in elementary and secondary schools on stateside military installations.
"Congress wants to survey parents and military installation staffs about transferring DoD domestic dependent elementary and secondary schools to local school systems," said Hector Nevarez. "Military dependent children are going to local schools across the country where we don't have DoD domestic schools. In those areas, their enrollment is 35 percent of the school district population."
Nevarez is director of the Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools, an element of the DoD worldwide dependents schools system.
The survey asks parents' opinions on the possible transfer and their level of concern to a list of issues that assumes transfers take place, Nevarez said. It asks about specific school programs including math, English and special education as well as quality of programs, parental involvement and physical environment.
The survey also collects demographic information including student age, grade and sponsor rank and branch of service.
The survey is mailed directly to parents with a preaddressed, postage-paid return envelope. Results are scheduled to be submitted to Congress in October.
"Survey results will not be the sole factor in determining the future of DoD stateside schools," Nevarez said. "It only gauges the feasibility of keeping the schools open."
The Survey of Parents' Opinions on Local Schools includes all local education agencies in which more than 30 percent of the students live on federal property and/or have a parent employed on federal property owned by DoD," said Nevarez. "This includes civilian federal employees and members of the U.S. uniformed services -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"Ninety-three local education agencies met this criteria in school year 1995-96 and are included in the survey," Nevarez said.
DoD domestic elementary and secondary schools are on military installations, but DoD doesn't pay for the students' education, Nevarez noted. Local education agencies may receive funding from local, state and federal sources, he explained.
The Department of Education pays a large portion of the costs under the impact aid program, Nevarez said. "Since people living on military installations don't pay county property taxes, impact aid offsets the loss of tax dollars to school districts," he added.
There are 65 domestic elementary and secondary schools on 16 military installations in the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico, Nevarez noted. According to official enrollment figures on Sept. 30, 1995, the largest district is Fort Bragg, N.C., with eight schools and 4,603 students in grades prekindergarten through nine. The smallest is the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., with one school of 184 students in grades prekindergarten through eight.
The smallest school is Walker Intermediate at Fort Knox, Ky., with 167 students in grades four through six. The largest school is Diamond Elementary at Fort Stewart, Ga., with 1,076 students.
DoD spends more than $860 million per year to operate 173 overseas schools with an enrollment of more than 81,260 students. DoD pays none of the $295 million budget for stateside on-base schools.