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Bush Administration Officials Refuse to Allow Children of Puerto Rico-Based Employees to Start School - (8/25/2004)

WASHINGTON – In a stinging rebuke to the Bush Administration, the Federal Labor Relations Authority has issued a charge against the Federal Aviation Administration for abandoning American children of FAA employees in Puerto Rico. The case clearly contradicts the administration’s “No Child Left Behind” policy.

The children were unable to start school last week because the FAA, which employs their parents as air traffic controllers in San Juan, refused to certify the children as eligible to enroll in the Antilles Consolidated School System. The Department of Defense operates Antilles and it is the only public school in Puerto Rico in which the children are taught in English.

Many Puerto Rico-based controllers moved to work at San Juan Center – one of the FAA’s most difficult-to-staff facilities – with the understanding that their children would be able to attend a school that met U.S. standards. The FAA has certified all dependent children of employees as eligible to attend the DOD schools for the last 30 years. But In a sudden and last minute change of policy, the FAA determined that certain children would no longer be eligible. To add insult to injury, the FAA waited to advise the affected employees until it was too late for to enroll the children in other schools.

“Educating our children is a basic family value. Barring them from school is inhumane and cruel,” said John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “These children want nothing more than every other American child, and they deserve nothing less. And yet their parent’s employer has unilaterally decided to deny them an education. The FAA position on this issue is a charade and a farce.”

NATCA was forced to seek intervention from the FLRA to compel the administration to allow these children start school. The FLRA issued a charge against the agency last week for changing the policy without meeting the legal requirements and is seriously considering a request for a temporary restraining order against the FAA so all of the affected children will be able to enroll in school. A full hearing is scheduled in San Juan on Sept. 16th.

“It is unconscionable that the administration continues to actively fight against these children, doing potentially irreparable harm,” Carr remarked. “The school has room for the children and will accept them as soon as the FAA certifies them as eligible. The law is clear, there is noting that precludes the FAA from doing the right thing by these children and agency employees, they simply choose not to.”

Carr added, “The President promised no child would be left behind. That promise rings hollow when American children on U.S. soil are denied an education and are left sitting on the curb, with no hope of an education this year, just because there parents work for Uncle Sam.”


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