ARLINGTON, Va. - Teachers and school employees serving in overseas military schools are getting a somewhat heftier pay raise than last year.

Classroom teachers will receive an average increase of 3.06 percent; social workers will get an average 3.93 percent raise; guidance counselors will see an average 3.54 percent increase; and school psychologists will get an average 3.06 percent pay hike.

Beginner teachers with a bachelor’s degree will earn a starting salary of $32,840, up from $31,775 the previous school year. The maximum teacher salary, step 18 with a PhD will earn $67,150, up from $65,570 the previous school year.

“Despite the slowdown in the economy and the cuts many states are facing in their education budgets, the average increase for DODDS teachers this year is higher than the 2.84 percent average raise they received last year,” Sheridan Pearce, president of the Federal Education Association, wrote in the monthly bulletin. “Still, FEA continues to push for changes in how DODDS salaries are computed so that we can continue to attract the best teachers to our system.”

The new salary schedule, however, is for a school year that ends in mid-June.

The reason it is released so late in the school year is because a law mandates the salary schedule be set by taking an average of selected U.S. urban school districts in that same school year — schedules that aren’t typically released until the January-February time frame, which delays the analysis and release of the military school system schedule until April or May, said Paul Wolfe, the personal director for the Department of Defense Education Activity, which runs the overseas military school system.

However, employees will still receive what's due to them. The pay hike is retroactive to the beginning of the school year and the difference is paid in one lump sum, ideally a few pay periods before the end of the school year, Wolfe said. Employees should see the balance in their June 6 or June 20 pay stubs, he said.

FEA and its parent teacher lobbying organization, the National Education Association, have lobbied Congress for the past few years for a change in the way overseas teachers salaries are computed.

But a December study by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found no issues with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools pay. The study found overseas military school system teachers are paid adequately and tend to garner more than their stateside counterparts, and concluded that the current pay schedules do not hinder the military educational system’s ability to recruit and retain employees.

The FEA, which represents about 5,700 educators in DODDS, argues that overseas teachers might earn more, but face hardships stateside teachers don’t deal with, such as finding English-speaking doctors, learning to live in a foreign nation and getting used to foreign customs. Cost of health care overseas tends to be higher when access to military facilities is limited, if not nonexistent, education officials have said.

Currently, overseas teacher salaries are based on a law set in 1966 which tabulates the average salary of about 200 U.S. urban school districts with populations of 100,000 or more. The FEA is lobbying to base the salary on the average of suburban Washington, D.C., districts, which pay more than urbanized districts.

Also new in the pay schedule, speech and language pathologists with master’s degrees will be included in the social worker salary schedule, which means greater earning potential. Those without master’s degrees will continue to be paid on the classroom teacher scale, however, in cases in which the salary is greater on the teacher scale than social worker scale, the pathologist will receive the higher amount.

A comparison study done with stateside school districts revealed speech pathologists should be on a higher scale, Wolfe said.

The complete salary schedules for school year 2002-2003 are available on the FEA Web site at and should be on the official DODEA Web site shortly at

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