Education programs will be spared the prospect of the largest across-the-board cuts in history, but only temporarily, under a bill to avert much of the so-called "fiscal cliff," overwhelmingly approved by Congress on Tuesday.
The measure, which passed the U.S. Senate 89-8 early Tuesday morning and the U.S. House 257-167 Tuesday night, will delay the trigger cuts known as "sequestration," which have been set to hit just about every government agency—including the U.S. Department of Education—on Jan. 2. Under the deal, the cuts will be postponed until March, giving federal lawmakers time to craft a broader budget agreement. The deal was worked out at the 11th hour by Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader.
In the House, where approval seemed touch-and-go most of Tuesday, nearly every Democrat voted for the bill, while 85 Republicans supported it. Sixteen Democrats, and 151 Republicans voted against the measure.
To help pay for the postponement of the trigger cuts—which would slice 8.2 percent from a wide range of programs, including K-12 education—lawmakers have agreed to $12 billion in revenue increases, plus $12 billion in spending cuts, including $6 billion from domestic programs, according to published reports. It's unclear how, and whether, those cuts would affect education spending.
The deal essentially sets up yet another major fiscal fight later on this year. Congress will need to come up with new legislation to cope with sequestration by March. That could involve a fresh round of domestic-spending cuts, which, in turn, could put education programs on the chopping block.
Plus, the federal government is operating on a temporary budget, called a continuing resolution, which expires at the end of March. Lawmakers will have to figure out a final budget for fiscal year 2013, which began back on Oct. 1, or face the prospect of a government shutdown.
To top it all off, the nation has hit the federal debt ceiling yet again, meaning that the government will need new legislation to be allowed to borrow more money—and keep agencies and programs in business. A measure to deal with that issue will also need to be approved in the next couple of months.
Education advocates fear the result may well be more chaos, since it was the last deal to raise the debt ceiling, back in August of 2011, that put sequestration in place to begin with. Republicans have said they do not want to raise the debt ceiling without reducing spending.
All this adds up to a lot of continued uncertainty for school districts and their advocates...
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
K-12 Aid Faces Uncertain Future, Despite 'Fiscal Cliff' Deal
This from Politics K-12: