The U.S. Department of Education says that sequestration would not affect 2012-13 school year budgets, except for districts that receive Impact Aid funds.
However, sequestration—the across-the-board budget cuts slated to occur in all federal discretionary programs in Jan. 2013—could have a profound impact on K-12 budgets beginning in the 2013-14 school year, according to the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
A July 20 memo from U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Anthony Miller to chief state school officers said that because most K-12 grants to states are given in October, the impact is not expected to occur until the next fiscal year and school districts should not withhold funds in anticipation of mid-year cuts. The sequestration will occur on Jan. 2, 2013 under the Budget Control Act of 2011 unless Congress and the White House approve a different plan to deal with the nation’s debt ceiling.
But the law ultimately could have an “unprecedented impact” on K-12 funding, NSBA officials say.
While news that funding for the 2012-13 school year appears to relieve immediate concerns, “it does not take the pressure off to do something,” says Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy. If Congress temporarily delays the Jan. 2 deadline of sequestration, district officials will still be operating in limbo as they prepare their budgets for the 2013-14 school year this spring. And a cut—estimated at 7.8 percent—would severely hinder school budgets.
The 1,192 districts that receive federal Impact Aid funds, which total $1.2 billion this year, would see reductions immediately, according to Miller.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Related Agencies also held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the impact of cuts to non-defense programs. A report released by the committee’s Democratic leaders said that they have been pressured to exempt defense programs from the sequestration, and either find offsets for those programs or have other programs bear the full brunt of what is estimated to be a $1.2 trillion cut. If defense programs are excluded, other agencies would see cuts of up to 17.6 percent, according to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and chairman of the subcommittee.
The subcommittee report notes that, “States and local communities would lose $2.7 billion in Federal funding for just three critical education programs alone – Title I, special education state grants, and Head Start – that serve a combined 30.7 million children. Nationwide, these cuts would force 46,349 employees to either lose their jobs or rely on cash-strapped states and localities to pick up their salaries instead.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned of dire cuts at the subcommittee hearing. When asked what would be his priorities to cut under sequestration, Duncan responded that the Department would have no flexibility to determine which programs would be cut, that any cuts would be across-the-board.
NSBA submitted questions and a letter to the subcommittee on July 23.
“More than $835 million was cut from federal elementary and secondary education programs in FY2011 as a result of the series of continuing resolutions and the final appropriations bill. Another budget cut would be counterproductive to student achievement gains and local and national economies, thereby affecting sustainability and growth,” Resnick wrote.