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FAA Evades Mineta's Guidance, Denies Education to Employees' Kids - (7/5/2005)

WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration is blatantly ignoring clear guidance from Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta by continuing to deny children of its employees in Puerto Rico and Guam access to the Department of Defense school system. This is happening despite Secretary Mineta’s determination one year ago that local schools in Puerto Rico and Guam are not appropriate for the dependents of FAA employees because the curriculum is not taught in English. The only access to public education taught in English is through the schools provided by the Department of Defense.

Secretary Mineta wrote that his determination was to "permanently authorize the Federal Aviation Administration to pay for the expenses of primary and secondary schooling for dependents of Federal Aviation Administration personnel stationed in Puerto Rico and Guam." However, the FAA has told the National Air Traffic Controllers Association that they will not certify certain children of FAA employees for school at the DOD programs for the 2005-06 school year.

Making matters worse, the FAA concealed Secretary Mineta’s decision during bargaining on the issue with NATCA. The FAA also did not disclose this information to the Federal Labor Relations Authority during the investigation of NATCA’s unfair labor practice charges that were filed over the agency’s failure to certify these children for the 2004-05 school year.

“Leave it to this agency to again display its arrogance and total disregard not only for its own employees but for the collective bargaining process as well,” NATCA President John Carr said. “For the FAA to harm children of its employees for no reason other than to flex its muscles should not surprise anyone but it should outrage everyone, starting with Secretary Mineta and the Department of Transportation Inspector General.”

“I would hope that the FAA administrator would not want her legacy to include the fact that she denied an education to her own employees’ children and then refused her boss’ direct guidance to rectify that woeful situation,” Carr stated.

The effects of this situation are exemplified by the 12-year-old son of San Juan (Puerto Rico) Center/Radar Approach Controller Edgar Diaz. The youth is a special needs student who should be attending the seventh grade this fall. In the past, his needs were fully taken care of by the certified special education department at the local Antilles Consolidated School System, at Fort Buchanan. But the FAA's refusal to certify the child has placed him in a terrible predicament. The local school system does not offer special education curriculum, nor does it provide specialized instruction in English. The youth would be placed into a local school at the fourth grade level.

Several FAA employees have told NATCA they did not accept their positions in San Juan after transferring from U.S. air traffic facilities without first investigating the education the agency would afford their children via the English language curriculum at Fort Buchanan. Now, those employees feel betrayed and outraged. Diaz told Carr he feels he is “discriminated against because I am a resident of Puerto Rico and not a contract employee transferred from the United States.”


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