Children graduate from preschool on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

For the first time ever, military schools have begun enrolling students for a new, full-day universal prekindergarten program[1].

The new Department of Defense Education Activity pre-K program is set to start at the beginning of next school year with enrollment and has long been sought[2] by military families, especially those with two working parents, including dual-military couples. Now, 80 of 90 DoDEA schools will host the universal program, with enrollment opened for school starting this fall.

"It really adds a lot more into the support we can provide to military families," Will Griffin, the communications director for DoDEA, told in an interview Thursday.

Read Next: 'Restore Real Value': House Panel Wants to Give Junior Enlisted Troops 15% Pay Raise[3]

Pre-K is already offered at some DoD schools, but not everywhere. In many cases, when it is offered, the program allows only half-day enrollment, leaving many working parents to come up with alternative child care solutions.

The initiative, fueled by $94 million in a defense spending bill passed by Congress[4] last month, is open to all children eligible to attend DoDEA schools who will be 4 years old by Sept. 1. It will follow the widely used early childhood development "Creative Curriculum[5]."

The program is set to open after undergoing a successful pilot program[6] last year at an elementary school at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni[7], Japan, Griffin said.

The 10 schools that will not offer universal pre-K are in the process of undergoing significant renovations or new construction to accommodate future students, Griffin said, adding that DoD schools must adhere to certain facility requirements for hosting elementary school students.

Those schools include four elementary schools at Fort Campbell[8], Kentucky; one at Fort Novosel[9], Alabama; and five additional schools across Europe, including four in Germany and one in Kleine Brogel, Belgium.

The schools that will offer universal pre-K will begin the program 10 days after the start of the regular school year for older students. Griffin said the delayed start will allow additional time for pre-K teacher professional development, and will let teachers and families schedule one-on-one meetings to help children ease into the change.

The DoDEA expects numbers of pre-K enrollment to closely match kindergarten enrollment, which currently hovers around 6,000 students, Griffin said, adding that the bulk of military students are youngsters enrolled in pre-K through fifth grade.

DoDEA is working to add 500 jobs to support the program, including 250 teachers and 250 teaching aides. The student-to-teacher ratio for the program is set at 18 students for every one teacher, with a teaching aide. Teaching aides are "paraprofessionals" and are not required to have a teaching degree or license.

Roughly 80% of new pre-K staff have been hired so far, Griffin said.

Details on the delayed school openings and student registration can be found on the DoDEA website[10]. Registration is open and will not close, though early enrollment is encouraged.

-- Kelsey Baker is a graduate student at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, and a former active-duty Marine. Reach her on X at @KelsBBaker or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.[11].

Related: DoD Schools Roll Out New 'Gender-Neutral' Dress Code for Students[12]

© Copyright 2024 All rights reserved. This article may not be republished, rebroadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without written permission. To reprint or license this article or any content from, please submit your request here[13].

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Ten people in flight suits wave in a warehouse. A large U.S. flag is displayed behind them.After learning Russian and robotics and training in jets and spacesuits over the past two years, NASA's newest astronauts are ready to take a giant leap forward for space exploration.  

Chosen from a pool of more than 12,000 applicants, eight of the 10

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Pentagon Press Secretary U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder

The Pentagon has asked its internal watchdog, the inspector general, to probe the military day care system's handling of abuse cases -- a move that came late Wednesday, just hours after an investigative report[1] by was published.

The investigation revealed that service branch rules generally prioritize protecting base day care centers over children who are victims of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of staff. Reporting further revealed how policies keep parents in the dark while officials formulate a public relations response and have minimal safeguards to guarantee accountability.

"It is paramount that we ensure children on DoD installations are provided a safe, healthy, and caring environment -- and their families have confidence in the care provided," Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, told in an email announcing the referral of the issue to the DoD inspector general.

Read Next: Army Orders More Helicopter Pilot Training After Spate of 12 Crashes Kills, Injures Soldiers[2]

Ryder further promised the office will "work together with the military departments to ensure CDC [child development centers] facilities and staff meet the highest standards of care for our children and to promote appropriate accountability."

The inspector general's office told in an email that it was reviewing the request "to determine the appropriate course of action" and had no further comment.

The Defense Department's swift response, especially as a reaction to reporting, is rare. The IG is an independent watchdog agency within the department and, while unlikely in this instance, it does have the authority to turn down such a referral.

An IG investigation itself doesn't necessarily mean individuals will be held accountable, but it could shed more light on the issue and potentially serve as ammunition for regulation changes or action on Capitol Hill.

Jeremy Kuykendall, an Army[3] captain and the father of one of the abuse victims, told that he was grateful and cautiously optimistic about the referral to the IG, but said the overall situation has still left him feeling frustrated and betrayed.

"There's not what you build into the culture and ethos and understanding of trust; you have to have each other's back, right?" Kuykendall said Thursday. "You have to go to war, not [be] questioning the liability of the people to your left and right. So, you're not thinking about remote problems, like accountability issues within a day care incident, but it's connected."

Kuykendall's daughter Isabella was abused over her three-day time at the Ford Island day care at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam[4] in Hawaii in 2022. CCTV footage showed that she, then 15 months old, was pinched, smothered, thrown up against a wall and handled so roughly at the hands of two workers that a pediatrician believed she even suffered a concussion in addition to bruises and scratches.

Throughout the investigation, spoke to a dozen families and their lawyers, all with similar stories of not being told when their child was injured and, in many cases, parents assuming hefty legal bills to force the military branches to tell them what happened.

Despite collecting instances of military leadership admitting failures, finger-pointing and weaponized ignorance often won out in the cases analyzed by the publication, leading to little or no accountability taken or changes made.

In one case, this enabled one of the workers who abused Bella and who was later found guilty of assault in a civilian court to keep working at the day care for an additional five months after the abuse was discovered, despite the Navy[5] having been made aware of the worker's involvement.

Although rare, this is the second time in three weeks that a report has yielded a potential IG investigation.

Late last month, the Army referred the case of Gen. Charles Hamilton[6] to the Defense Department inspector general for investigation, following a report that showed Hamilton may have used a "pressure campaign" to influence the Army Command Assessment Program panel in favor of one of his former subordinate officers, a lieutenant colonel.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth suspended Gen. Charles Hamilton[7] on March 22 and referred the case to the IG after reporting revealed that, even though the assessment process ultimately found the officer unqualified due to ineffective and counterproductive leadership, she was still later placed on a selection list for command.

No wrongdoing was suspected on the lieutenant colonel's part.

-- Rachel Nostrant is a Marine Corps[8] veteran and freelance journalist, with work published in Reuters, New York Magazine, Military Times and more.

Related: Unsupervised: Military Child Care Centers Slow to Report Abuse with Little Oversight[9]

© Copyright 2024 All rights reserved. This article may not be republished, rebroadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without written permission. To reprint or license this article or any content from, please submit your request here[10].

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