The Foreign Service Journal - December 2013 - page 86

mployees of government
agencies assigned overseas
are granted allowances to help
defray the cost of an education for their
children in kindergarten through 12th
grade, one equivalent to that provided
by public school systems in the United
In most cases, posts abroad are
served by one or more English-lan-
guage, American curriculum schools.
The majority of these are nongovern-
mental, nonprofit, nondenominational,
independent schools, usually with a
board of directors establishing policy
and a superintendent, headmaster or
principal as the senior administrator.
Even though these schools may be
called American, they are not entities of
the U.S. government and space is not
guaranteed for U.S. embassy children.
Some receive government grants
for specific purposes, but these grants
represent a small percentage of their
overall budget. Children of many
nationalities attend these schools—
including, in most schools, a significant
percentage of host-country students.
The allowances for a specific post
are determined by the fees charged by
a school identified as providing a basic
U.S.-type education. Parents may use
this allowance to send their children to
a different school of their choice—say,
a parochial or foreign-language institu-
tion—as long as the cost does not
exceed that of the “base” school. If the
alternative school is more expensive
than the “base” school, the difference
would be an out-of-pocket expense for
the parents.
An allowance covers only expenses
for those services usually available
without cost in American public
schools, including tuition, transporta-
tion and textbooks. Fees for lunches,
field trips, computers or school uni-
forms are not covered, even if required
by the school.
Parents may also elect to home-
school their children while at post, using
a home study program or a virtual online
educational program. They will receive
an allowance to purchase materials and
services while posted abroad, but this
allowance will not be continued if they
are reassigned to the United States.
If a foreign country does not have a
secular, English-language school with
an American curriculum, or has such a
school that goes only through certain
grades, an away-from-post or “board-
ing school” allowance is provided. A
lump sum, varying from post to post, is
allotted to cover the estimated cost of
tuition, room, board and travel to post
during school vacations. Parents may
choose the boarding school they prefer.
There is no special funding for
parents or students to visit schools in
advance of application or for an inter-
view, even if one is required. Some
schools will agree to do an interview via
Skype or Facetime. The allowance will
not be paid for a child to attend a school
in the United States if there is a par-
ent (natural, adoptive or step) residing
there, because the assumption in that
case is that the child could attend a
public school.
The U.S. government does not pro-
vide an allowance for college or other
post-secondary education. However, one
round-trip per year to post is provided
for students studying at universi-
ties in the United States through the
Educational Travel Allowance. In 2006,
Congress amended the statute to offer
this allowance to students studying at
universities abroad. Also allowed is the
shipment of 250 pounds of unaccompa-
nied air baggage or the equivalent cost
in storage for each college or boarding
school student.
All funding for education is
processed by the financial manage-
ment officer at the post where the
employee is assigned. At some posts
the embassy or consulate works very
closely with the school or schools, and
the billing is handled directly. In other
instances, the employee will pay a
school fee, or pay for an airline ticket
or storage, and then submit bills to
the FMO for reimbursement. Although
a student may start school at the
beginning of a semester if a parent has
been officially assigned to a post, the
parent may not be reimbursed for any
school expenses until he or she arrives
at post.
There are several offices in the
Department of State prepared to help
you understand how the educational
allowances work, and what choices
you have for your children. These
include the Office of Overseas Schools
, the Office of
Allowances (
and the Family Liaison Office (www.
We hope that you will get in touch
with us if you have any questions
about your situation. Although these
offices are part of the Department of
State, the same allowances apply to
most civilian federal employees under
chief-of-mission authority overseas.
For information or assistance contact
or call
(202) 647-1076.
Pamela Ward is a regional educa-
tion officer in the State Department’s
Office of Overseas Schools. She
served previously as the educa-
tion and youth officer in the Family
Liaison Office. Her article, originally
published in the June 2007
, has
been updated to reflect developments
since then.
The ABCs of Education Allowances
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