As lawmakers reconvene to discuss alternatives to the fiscal cliff, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) continues to urge Congress and President Barack Obama to forge a bipartisan solution that puts our children’s education first and protects their future, as well as the future of our country.This from PBS:
With the fiscal cliff looming, more than 600 school boards have passed resolutions urging Congress to stop the across-the-board cuts that would have a detrimental impact upon their school districts through the sequestration process.
These federal cuts would total more than $4 billion this fiscal year. Furthermore, these cuts would continue over a 10-year period and have a devastating effect on our schools, eroding the base of funding for key programs year after year.
“The federal cuts to education would be a regression to the progress our school districts have made in student achievement, from deep cuts to Title I grants for disadvantaged students and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to House-passed legislation that would impose mandatory reductions eliminating automatic eligibility of 280,000 low-income students for free school lunches,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Public Policy and Federal Advocacy.
K-12 education programs have already been reduced on the federal level with cuts to elementary and secondary education funding in Fiscal Year 2011. The ability to absorb additional budget cuts and provide an enhanced curriculum for all students is extremely limited for many school districts.
“An agreement is urgently needed now that protects education, as federal investments in education yield returns that result in greater productivity, global competitiveness, higher revenues, and increased employment,” said NSBA’s President C. Ed Massey, a member of the Boone County (Ky.) Board of Education.
With tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect in January if lawmakers and the President fail to reach a debt-reduction deal, education providers are being forced to plan for tighter budgets. In many cases, that would mean jobs lost and reduced services for students. The aspect of the "cliff" that would impact education budgets most directly is sequestration -- mandatory cuts to discretionary federal spending. The White House Office of Management and Budget estimates sequestration would reduce discretionary spending, which includes federal education money, by roughly 8.2 percent.
1. The Education Department Is Just Part of the Picture
If sequestration happens, the Department of Education would see cutbacks in most of its major programs including funding for lower-income school districts, teacher training, special education and improvements for under-performing schools.
2. The Effects Would be Uneven
While a straight 8 percent cut would seem to suggest everybody would share the fiscal pain equally, things get cloudier when you look at how federal education money is distributed. On average, money from Washington only makes up about 10 percent of public school funding, with the rest coming from state and local governments. But the actual spending breakdown is weighted towards services for the most vulnerable students.
3. It Won't Happen All At Once
If educators were looking for any bit of good news, it might be that their section of the "cliff" doesn't appear to be a sheer drop.
4. Even If There's a Deal, Things Aren't Certain
There is still the possibility that the two parties could reach an agreement. But what's not clear is what a deal would mean for education funding. Ed Week's Alyson Klein reports that even if sequestration takes effect, "some programs are exempt, including federal student loans, some Pell Grant money, most child nutrition programs, and the Children's Health Insurance Program," which could likely mean they would also be kept off the table in a budget deal.