Public Schools On Military Bases Get Bad Report Card

Emma Schwartz
iWatch News / News Analysis
Published: Wednesday 31 August 2011
Pentagon ranks nearly 40 percent of schools ‘poor’ or ‘failing’.
Article image
Re­size Text + | - | R
A sub­stan­tial num­ber of pub­lic schools on mil­i­tary bases are in ei­ther poor or fail­ing con­di­tion, and many are over­crowded, a new re­port card by the De­fense De­part­ment shows.
The lat­est data adds to the grim por­trait of di­lap­i­dated and un­der­sized schools de­scribed in an iWatch News in­ves­ti­ga­tion , which found that three in four Pen­ta­gon-run schools are ei­ther be­yond re­pair or would re­quire ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tion to meet min­i­mum stan­dards for safety, qual­ity, ac­ces­si­bil­ity and de­sign.
Where mil­i­tary chil­dren go to school de­pends on cir­cum­stances often be­yond fam­i­lies’ con­trol. More than 500,000 chil­dren, the largest pro­por­tion, live off base, at­tend­ing local schools in urban or sub­ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties that often have sig­nif­i­cantly more re­sources.
But fam­i­lies who live on mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions — ei­ther for eco­nomic, ca­reer or se­cu­rity rea­sons — send their chil­dren to one of 194 base schools op­er­ated by the Pen­ta­gon around the world, or 159 base schools in the U.S. op­er­ated by local school dis­tricts. These stu­dents — about 150,000 in all — are likely to at­tend schools with sig­nif­i­cant struc­tural de­fi­cien­cies.
The lat­est Pen­ta­gon re­port card on schools where sons and daugh­ters of mil­i­tary per­son­nel are start­ing classes fo­cuses on the pub­lic schools on mil­i­tary bases. The re­port iden­ti­fies nearly 40 per­cent that are in “poor” or “fail­ing” con­di­tion.
Al­to­gether, 62 of the 157 pub­lic schools on mil­i­tary bases that were in­spected by the Pen­ta­gon were in ei­ther poor or fail­ing con­di­tion. And 28 schools—in­clud­ing many of those in poor or fail­ing con­di­tion —were over ca­pac­ity by at least 15 per­cent and some­times as much as 30 per­cent.
[Full rank­ings of the pub­lic schools can be seen here. Rank­ings of Pen­ta­gon-run schools are here. The Pen­ta­gon’s ex­pla­na­tion of its rank­ings can be found here]
Among the schools with the worst rank­ings in the re­port was Geron­imo Road El­e­men­tary at Fort Sill in Ok­la­homa, one of the schools high­lighted in an iWatch­News video about Catie Hunter, a fifth grader whose fa­ther has been de­ployed mul­ti­ple times. At her school, she must nav­i­gate be­tween garbage bins col­lect­ing water from the roof in order to class. The school also has mold on some of its walls, and cracks can be seen along a hall­way. The re­port listed Geron­imo Road's con­di­tion as fail­ing.
"We are using the re­sults of these as­sess­ments to de­ter­mine how to best lever­age the con­sid­er­able as­sets of the De­fense De­part­ment and re­lated gov­ern­ment agen­cies to im­prove ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties for mil­i­tary chil­dren," said Maj. Mon­ica Ma­toush, a Pen­ta­gon spokes­woman. Among other schools in poor con­di­tion were sev­eral el­e­men­tary schools at Fort Lewis in Wash­ing­ton state, in­clud­ing Hill­side, Green­wood and Clark­moor el­e­men­tary school.
Worst-rank­ing fa­cil­i­ties are el­i­gi­ble for grants to make re­pairs, but the total amount avail­able, $250 mil­lion, is not likely to make much of a dif­fer­ence any time soon.
Bring­ing mil­i­tary-run schools up to stan­dards would cost nearly $4 bil­lion. Local dis­tricts would need an­other $1 bil­lion
Sen. Bar­bara Boxer, D-Calif., in a state­ment, said the grants would send an im­por­tant mes­sage. “This $250 mil­lion down pay­ment on fix­ing the fail­ing in­fra­struc­ture at schools on U.S. mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions is a very im­por­tant sig­nal that we will not allow these con­di­tions to con­tinue," she said.
De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon Panetta, in a state­ment, stressed the mil­i­tary’s com­mit­ment to the sons and daugh­ters of U.S. ser­vice per­son­nel. “High qual­ity fa­cil­i­ties and in­struc­tion are es­sen­tial,” he said.
The iWatch­News in­ves­ti­ga­tion in June re­vealed an array of sub­stan­dard con­di­tions at many of the 353 schools for mil­i­tary chil­dren world­wide. Three in four De­fense De­part­ment-run schools on mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions are ei­ther be­yond re­pair or would re­quire ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tion to meet min­i­mum stan­dards for safety, qual­ity, ac­ces­si­bil­ity and de­sign, the iWatch­News probe found. Schools run by pub­lic-school sys­tems on Army posts don’t fare much bet­ter: 39 per­cent fail to meet even the mil­i­tary’s own stan­dards, ac­cord­ing to a 2010 Army re­port. 
The Na­tional Mil­i­tary Fam­ily As­so­ci­a­tion ap­plauded the Pen­ta­gon’s grant pro­gram, but said that the lo­ca­tion ed­u­ca­tion agen­cies should shoul­der some of the fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity.
Reprinted by per­mis­sion from iWatch News