Jim Banks Proposes Legislation Holding Pentagon-Run Schools To Higher Standards

Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks introduced an amendment to Congress’ defense spending bill Wednesday aimed at improving education opportunities for children of military service members. The legislation follows a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation into Pentagon-run schools in Bahrain.

Banks’ amendment to the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act raises standards for Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) schools to improve quality of learning for students, improves training requirements for teachers and extends funds for active duty members and DOD employees to send their children to a non-DODEA school in Bahrain. Parents with children attending the sole DODEA-run school in Bahrain previously told the DCNF that they felt the school was staffed by underqualified teachers who expressed indifference to their children’s education and treated special needs students poorly.

Banks’ office said that the creation of his amendment was influenced by the DCNF’s investigation.

“[The families] have repeatedly struggled to get their kids a good education at the Bahrain school,” Banks said during a House Armed Services Committee markup hearing on Wednesday.

WATCH:

The amendment, whose text was obtained by the DCNF, requires teachers at DODEA-run schools to undergo specialized training to provide them “with the skills necessary to effectively teach in a 21st-century school environment.”

This includes meeting the needs of the classroom, “building the relationships necessary to succeed” with students, maintaining a rigorous curriculum and keeping “other skills necessary to support the academic achievement and social and emotional well-being of students.”

The amendment also would establish a Bahrain “pilot program” that would allow qualified individuals — in this case, active duty members in the military or full-time employees of the DOD stationed in Bahrain — to receive an allowance from the State Department to send their children to a non-DODEA-run school in the country.

“Because of the deep concern of parents at the Bahrain school, which has been struggling with poor teaching… we have developed a pilot program,” Banks said during the markup hearing Wednesday. “These struggles underscore the need to provide servicemember families with educational options.”

Military families previously told the DCNF that they had grown frustrated with how the DODEA Bahrain school was treating them and their children. Parents said that the school employed unqualified full-time and substitute teachers who failed to teach the curriculum properly, setting back students’ academic progress.

Some teachers would berate students for missing class even after being informed of their absence in advance, one of the parents told the DCNF. A number of parents requested additional information about their children’s curriculum but often received lackluster responses from teachers or no response at all.

The principal of the school, Penelope Miller-Smith, was responsible for creating a “cold and uncaring atmosphere,” two parents previously told the DCNF. Miller-Smith violated U.S. disability laws on at least three separate occasions for one of the students, who had ADHD and a specialized education plan in place for accommodations; Miller-Smith told the parent of the student that “Your son doesn’t belong here,” the parent told the DCNF.

Some parents chose to withdraw their children out of the DODEA Bahrain school and provide them with education at home instead.

“Many of my friends actually pulled their kids out of the Bahrain school and either homeschooled them or sent them to private schools — and this includes at least two children identified as special ed,” Amy Haywood, a military spouse, told the DCNF. “They are now thriving. I actually ended up pulling my child and homeschooling her for two years, as well. I knew DODEA couldn’t give her what she needed and was afraid her learning would stagnate. She is now top of her class in her current private school.”

Haywood applauded Banks’ efforts to hold DODEA schools to a higher level of accountability and provide parents with alternative education options.

“Parents in Bahrain have been asking for vouchers for years,” Haywood told the DCNF, referring to the proposed pilot program. “Under Rep. Banks’s voucher amendment, if parents are happy with DODEA, they can keep it; but if parents want a private or homeschool option that better fits their children, they would be free to go elsewhere.”

The DOD declined to comment.


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