Military families will suffer under automatic spending cuts that began Friday because there will be fewer teachers on military bases, defense officials said Monday.
About 8,350 teachers at military elementary, middle and high schools around the world will be forced to take one day of unpaid leave each week for 22 weeks beginning in April under the spending-cut plan known as sequestration. As many as 84,000 military children at 194 schools around the world could be affected by the teacher furloughs, officials said.
"We're going to do everything we can to manage the furlough process in a manner that enables military children to receive an accredited school year for this academic year," Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters on Monday.
The Pentagon has said it will furlough its 800,000 civilian workers for 22 days to deal with funding shortages under sequestration.
Furloughed civilians are expected to lose about 20 percent of their annual pay. The average annual salary for a military schoolteacher is about $68,500.
Most military schools are overseas — 129 schools in 12 countries serving 57,000 children of deployed families. Children at bases in Japan would be the most affected by teacher furloughs — 21 schools and about 8,400 students.
There are 65 schools teaching about 27,000 military children in states such as Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina and New York, as well as in Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
North Carolina, with its 18 military schools and nearly 8,250 students, would be most affected by teacher furloughs stateside.
Officials were hard-pressed to say how students would be affected, and how the furloughs would be implemented is unclear.
The furloughs would begin no later than April 28 and end Sept. 30. Students would have one or two months of the current school year and about two months of the next with furloughed teachers.
It is not clear how teachers will be furloughed if they do not teach over the summer. Currently, teachers are paid for 190 days, which is spread over 10 months, but they can opt to be paid biweekly over 12 months.
Officials did not clarify how summer school would be affected by the furloughs.
The Department of Defense Educational Activity, which oversees military schools, has submitted a plan to the defense secretary on how to implement sequestration, and a decision is expected by March 15, according to the organization's website.
In addition, the furloughs will affect civilian workers at about 250 commissaries at military bases around the world and 178 in the U.S., defense officials said. California would have the most affected civilian workers at its 22 commissaries.
"We are likely to close all commissaries around the world one day per week, and that will have an impact. This will not start immediately, but start around the same time that furloughs begin," Mr. Little said.
Nearly 64 percent of commissary employees are military spouses, children of service members, veterans, retirees and reservists, defense officials said. Military spouses make up 28 percent of the workforce, Mr. Little said.
"They will be subject to furlough, and that is regrettable, and that will cause pain," he said.
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