DoDEA's 75 Year History

DoDEA's 75 Year History

DoDEA has a long and proud history of serving military families at locations around the globe.

DoDEA's beginnings can be traced back to the end of World War II with the establishment of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DODDS). At the end of the war, there was no precedent to follow for establishing and operating dependents schools in foreign occupied countries and quite often, parents organized small schools.

The Department of the Army established the first dependents schools - on and off military installations - in 1946 in the occupied countries of Germany, Austria and Japan. Within three years, there were nearly 100 schools which were operated separately by the Army, Navy, and Air Force, in countries around the world.

2000 to Present

DoDEA, as one of only two Federally-operated school systems, is responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, and managing prekindergarten through 12th grade educational programs on behalf of the Department of Defense (DoD). DoDEA is globally positioned, operating 160 accredited schools in 8 districts located in 11 foreign countries, 7 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

DoDEA employs approximately 15,000 employees who serve approximately 67,000 children of active duty military and DoD civilian families. DoDEA is committed to ensuring that all school-aged children of military families are provided a world-class education that prepares them for postsecondary education and/or career success and to be leading contributors in their communities as well as in our 21st century globalized society.

DoDEA operates as a field activity of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness). It is headed by a director who oversees all agency functions from DoDEA headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. DoDEA's schools are divided into 3 geographic areas: Europe, the Pacific, and the Americas.

The 1990s

In 1992 the DoDDS headquarters in Arlington, VA, became the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). The DoDEA Director assumed responsibility for organizing, managing, and directing the DoDEA headquarters, DoDDS, and DDESS. Today, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) provides education to approximately 67,000 eligible DoD military and civilian children in 160 schools.

The 1980s

Following the Cold War in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the number of DoDDS schools was reduced and combined with the U.S.-based Domestic Dependents Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS) to form the Department of Defense Education Activity in 1992.

Historical Timeline

The 1960s and 70s

During the 1960s, combined worldwide enrollment averaged 160,000 students. In 1964 the Secretary of Defense combined three separate school systems into the Department of Defense Overseas Dependents School System. Three geographic areas were formed and the Services were assigned responsibility for operational support. The Army operated schools in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The Air Force operated schools in the Pacific (Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, the Philippines, Korea, and Midway Island).The Navy operated all schools in the Atlantic (Iceland, Labrador, Newfoundland, Bermuda, Cuba, Eleuthera, and Antigua).

In 1976, a Joint House-Senate Conference Committee Report informed the three military departments that the Department of Defense was taking over the operation of the military dependents' schools. A newly-established office in the Pentagon - the Office of Overseas Dependents Education - responsible to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs - took oversight of the schools.

In 1978 the Office of Overseas Dependents Education became the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS). The three geographic areas - Europe, Pacific, and Atlantic - were reconfigured into six geographic regions (Atlantic, Germany North, Germany South, Mediterranean, Panama and Pacific) with a regional director and several superintendents. In 1983, Germany North and Germany South were combined into a single Germany region.

Historical Milestones for DDESS

  • In 1821 Congress first enacted a law that allowed the operation of schools on military posts in the United States.
  • In 1950, federal legislation consolidated the funding and operation of these installation-run schools under the authority of Section 6, Public Law No. 81-874, which gave the then Commissioner of Education the authority to make arrangements for the free public education of children who resided on federal property if a State did not allow tax revenues to be expended for that purpose, or if no local educational agency (LEA) was able to provide suitable free public education to such children.
  • Arrangements include:
    • Establishing new schools on federal properties; and
    • Providing funding to local school districts to educate eligible dependents.
  • "Section 6 arrangements" were established by the Department of Education for the following reasons (1950-1980):
    • State law prohibited integrated education or segregated education was deemed unsuitable.
    • LEA was unable to provide suitable free public education.
    • Property was held under exclusive federal jurisdiction by the U.S.
    • State law prohibited tax revenues to be expended for free public education of federal children (Delaware).
  • In 1981, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA), P.L. 97-35, changed the responsibility for funding Section 6 arrangements from the Department of Education to the Department of Defense.
  • ASD (Manpower, Reserve Affairs and Logistics) delegated authority to operate the Section 6 schools and special arrangements (contracts) with LEAs to the ASD's of the Military Departments.
  • 1n 1982, DoD and the Department of Education executed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement OBRA, provide that SECDEF was authorized to fund Section 6 arrangements, and that the Secretary of Education was responsible for the conduct of programs to include:
    • Oversight of the programs at the schools
    • Verifying data provided by the schools
    • Providing recommendations to SECDEF on the conduct of programs and funding levels
  • In 1985, a dispute arose between DoD and Dept. of Education over SECDEF's authority to unilaterally enter into a Section 6 arrangement with Highland Falls-Fort Montgomery Central School District and the State of New York to educate high school children of military personnel serving at the U.S. Military Academy. A Department of Justice opinion in 1986 stated that the OBRA gave the SECDEF authority to establish new Section 6 arrangements for military dependents.
  • Also in 1985, P.L. 99-176 required SECDEF to submit to Congress a plan to provide for the orderly transfer of all Section 6 schools to the appropriate LEAs. Plan was submitted in March 1986.
  • In 1987, DoD issues DoD Directive 1342.16, "Provision of Free Public Education for Eligible Dependent Children Pursuant to Section 6, Public Law 81-874, as Amended."
  • In October 1990, Defense Management Report Decision Number 964 passed operational authority for the Section 6 arrangements from the Military Departments to OSD (ASD (FMP)).
  • In 1992, DoD issues charters for the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)(DoDD 1342.20), and the DoD Section 6 Schools (DoDD 1342.21).
  • In 1994, P.L. 103-382 repealed Section 6 of P.L. 81-874.
  • Also, in 1994, section 351(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 1995, P.L. 103-337, provided new authority for SECDEF to operate the domestic schools
    • Codified at 10 U.S.C. § 2164
    • New title for the schools: Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS)
  • In 1994, H. Conf. Rep. 103-701 accompanying the NDAA for FY 1995, requested SECDEF to:
    • Conduct a survey of DDESS to collect information concerning the possibility of transferring the schools to LEAs; and
    • Conduct a survey of school districts operated by LEAs with federally connected student populations over 30% to determine the level of funding for such schools and the sources of that funding.
    • Study was coordinated with appropriate LEAs, state education officials, military leadership, parents, and parent organizations
  • In October 30, 1996, DoD issues DoD Instruction 1342.25, "School Boards for Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools."
  • In 1997, DoD issues DoD Instruction 1342.26, "Eligibility Requirements for Minor Dependents to attend DoD DDESS."

Historical Milestones for DoDDS

  • Prior to World War II there was no precedent for establishing and operating dependents schools in foreign countries.
  • By 1949 almost 100 schools were being operated separately by the Army, Navy, and Air Force in countries around the world.
  • In 1964, the Secretary of Defense combined the three separate school systems into the Department of Defense Overseas Dependents School System.
  • In 1978, title XIV of P.L. 95-561, the Defense Dependents Education Act of 1978, established the Defense Dependents' Education System, and required the SECDEF to establish and operate a free public education system for eligible overseas dependents.
  • In 1979, the school system was called the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS).

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